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How the Sasquatch Got Its Name

How the Sasquatch Got Its Name

In British Columbia and the Northwestern United States, the Sasquatch hardly needs an introduction. This elusive, wild, hairy giant, once an obscure character of First Nations’ lore, now serves as an icon of the Pacific Northwest. Eight years ago, it inspired Quatchi, a monstrous mascot for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC. For twelve years, it has featured in Messin’ With Sasquatch– a series of hilarious Jack Link’s beef jerky commercials in which it is portrayed as the vengeful enemy of outdoorsy pranksters. And for sixteen years, it has shared its name with a famous Memorial Day music festival in George, Washington.

Another institution to which the Sasquatch lent its name is the Sasquatch Mountain Resort, a ski hill tucked away in the Douglas Mountains an hours’ drive north of Chilliwack, BC. The resort is aptly named, as most of its runs wind down the northeastern slope of Mount Keenan- a formation once known as Mount Morris, and the birthplace of the word “Sasquatch”.

The Origin of the Word “Sasquatch”

On the road from Chilliwack to the Sasquatch Mountain Resort, in the vicinity of the bridge over the Harrison River, lies the Chehalis Indian Reserve, home of the Chehalis First Nation.

The Chehalis people (not to be confused with their cousins from Puget Sound, with whom they share a name) are a Coast Salish people whose traditional territory revolves around the mouth of the Harrison River, a tributary of the Fraser.

Back in 1925, an Irish expat named John Walter Burns (born J.W. Bournes) became both the Indian agent and the schoolteacher at the Chehalis Reserve. Burns quickly earned the respect of the local natives and became fast friends with Frank Dan, a prominent Chehalis medicine man.

In those days, the Chehalis people were typically reluctant to share their stories with white men for fear of ridicule. Since J.W. Burns had demonstrated an open-mindedness towards their myths and legends, however, they eventually opened up to him and made him privy to some of their most carefully guarded secrets. Among the most intriguing of these were tales of wild hairy giants who, the Chehalis maintained, had inhabited the forests surrounding the Reserve since time immemorial. In 1929, Burns compiled some of these stories and published them in an article in the April 1, 1929 issue of the Canadian magazine Maclean’s, under the headline “Introducing B.C.’s Hairy Giants: A collection of strange tales about British Columbia’s wild men as told by those who say they have seen them.”

J.W. Burns’ Article

The tales of hairy wildmen recounted in J.W. Burns’ 1929 article in Maclean’s magazine are some of the most colourful of their kind to date.

The Wildman of Mount Morris

The first of these anecdotes details the experience of a Chehalis Indian man named Peter Williams in May 1909. While walking in the woods along the foot of Mount Morris about a mile from the Reserve, Williams heard a grunt in the bush. When he looked to see where the sound had come from, he found himself staring at what he first took to be a bear crouched atop a boulder about thirty feet away. As he raised his rifle to shoot the animal, it stood up and emitted a piercing scream. “It was a man,” said Williams. “A giant, no less than six and one-half feet in height, and covered in hair.” Enraged, the giant leapt from the boulder and tore after the Indian.

“I never ran so fast before or since,” said Williams, “through brush and undergrown toward the… Chehalis River [a tributary of the Harrison], where my dugout was moored.” Every so often, Williams glanced over his shoulder to check on his pursuer, who was quickly overtaking him. Williams narrowly escaped the monster by leaping into his boat and paddling downriver as fast as he could. “The swift river…” he said “did not in the least daunt the giant, for he began to wade it immediately.”

When he finally reached the safety of his cabin, Williams made sure that his wife and children were safe inside before bolting the door and barricading the entrance. “Then with my rifle ready,” Williams said, “I stood near the door and awaited his coming.”

After about twenty minutes, Williams heard a noise in the distance somewhat akin to the trampling of a horse. The noise became louder and louder. Williams eventually looked through a crack between the logs of the cabin wall and saw that the giant was approaching. “Darkness had not yet set in,” he said, “and I had a good look at him. Except that he was covered with hair and twice the bulk of the average man, there was nothing to distinguish him from the rest of us.”

When the monster reached the cabin, he began pushing the walls so that the structure rocked back and forth. The cabin creaked and groaned, yet by some miracle it managed to maintain its integrity. Clutching his rifle with trembling hands, Williams whispered for his wife to take the children and hide under the bed.

“After prowling and grunting like an animal around the house,” Williams continued, “he went away.” The family spent a restless night in the cabin, and in the morning Williams found the beast’s tracks in the mud outside, which were 22 inches long, “but narrow in proportion to their length.”

Peter Williams’ Second Encounter

The giant so damaged their cabin that the Williams’ family was forced to abandon it the following winter. Sometime later that season, Peter Williams went duck hunting on the north side of the Harrison River about two miles from the Reserve. Once again, he found himself face to face with the same hairy giant he had encountered the previous summer. As before, Williams ran for dear life, and the wildman chased after him. After about four hundred yards, however, the giant broke off and wandered back into the woods.

Interestingly, Peter’s brother, Paul, encountered the same creature later that afternoon. While he was fishing for salmon in a creek near the Reserve, the giant emerged from the forest and began to approach him. Terrified, Paul raced back towards his cabin with the monster hot on his heels. The giant gave up the chase shortly before Paul reached the cabin and walked back into the bush. Exhausted from fear and exertion, Paul collapsed in the snow and had to be carried inside by his mother and other relatives.

The Wild Couple of Harrison River

“The first and second time,” Williams told J.W. Burns, “I was all alone when I met this strange mountain creature. Then, early in the spring of the following year, another man and myself were bear hunting near the place where I found him. On this occasion, we ran into two of these giants.”

Initially, Williams and his companions thought the creatures were tree stumps. Suddenly, when they were about fifty feet away, the wildmen, who had been sitting on the ground, rose to their feet. Burns and his companion stopped dead in their tracks.

“We were close enough to know they were man and woman,” Williams said. “The woman was the smaller of the two, but neither of them as big or fierce-looking as the gent that chased me.” Williams and his friend ran home, and were not pursued.

Peter Williams’ Fourth and Final Sighting

One morning several weeks later, Williams and his wife were fishing in a canoe on the Harrison River not far from the Reserve. Upon paddling around a bend, they saw the same hairy giant that had destroyed their cabin the previous year. Fortunately, the monster took no notice of the Indians, and they made their escape without incident.

The Sasquatch Cave at Yale B.C.

Another wildman encounter Burns included in the article was the story of an elderly Indian named Charley Victor. Unlike Williams, Charley Victor was not a member of the Chehalis First Nation, but rather hailed from the Skwah Nation, a Coast Salish tribe from the Chilliwack area.

“The first time I came to know about these people,” Victor said, “I did not see anybody.” On this particular occasion, Victor was foraging with three other men on a rocky mountain slope about six miles from Yale- a town which lies on the CPR’s main line just north of Hope, BC. He and his companions were picking salmonberries- wild fruits similar to raspberries.

“In our search for berries,” Victor said, “we suddenly stumbled upon a large opening in the side of the mountain. This discovery greatly surprised all of us, for we knew every foot of the mountain, and we never knew nor heard there was a cave in the vicinity.”

Near the cave’s mouth was a massive boulder, which looked as though it once might have been employed as primitive door. The natives cautiously approached the cave and peered inside, but were unable to see anything on account of the darkness. In order to combat this, they gathered pitchwood (a type of pine heartwood naturally saturated with flammable resin), lit it on fire, and began to explore.

Not far from the mouth of the cave, the natives came upon a primitive stone house. “We couldn’t make a thorough examination,” Victor explained, “for our pitchwood kept going out. We left, intending to return in a couple of days and go on exploring.”

When Victor and his companions told the tale of their discovery to their fellow tribesmen back at the Reserve, the elders warned them not to venture near it again, as it was surely occupied by a wildman. “That was the first time I heard about the hairy men that inhabit the mountains,” Victor told Burns.

Disregarding the elders’ advice, Victor and his companions went back to explore the cave. When they reached it, they discovered, to their astonishment, that the massive boulder that stood near the entrance had been rolled back over the mouth, fitting so perfectly “that you might suppose it had been made for that purpose.”

 

Charley Victor’s First Encounter

About twenty years later, Charley Victor and a couple of his friends were bathing in a small lake near Yale, B.C. After he has finished bathing and had started to put on his clothes, a big hairy man stepped out from behind a rock only several feet away. “He looked at me for a moment,” Victor said. “His eyes were so kind-looking that I was about to speak with him, when he turned about and walked into the forest.”

The Wild Women of Hatzic, B.C.

In around 1914, Charley Victor had a second encounter with a hairy wild giant while hunting in the mountains near the village of Hatzic, just east of Mission, B.C.

On this excursion, Victor was accompanied by his dog. Upon hiking up to a plateau, his dog rushed over to a large cedar tree and began to growl and bark at it. Victor noticed that there was a large hole in the tree about seven feet from the ground, and that his dog apparently wanted to enter it. Victor lifted his dog up and watched it scurry into the hole.

Suddenly, a muffled cry issued from within the tree. Victor raised his rifle, thinking that his dog had encountered a bear. Sure enough, something large crawled out of the hole and fell to the ground. Instinctively, Victor took a shot at it- an action which he immediately regretted, for there at his feet sprawled a bleeding, naked, black-haired Caucasian boy of about twelve of fourteen years of age.

Horrified, Victor dropped his rifle and approached the boy to examine the extent of his injury. He saw that he had shot the boy in the leg, but before he had a chance to dress the wound, the boy cried out as if appealing for help from the forest.

“From across the mountain a long way off,” Victor said “rolled a booming voice.” Shortly thereafter, Victor heard the voice again, this time a little closer. The boy screamed again, as if in reply.

Although he was scared out of his wits, Victor’s conscience would not allow him to abandon the boy he had wounded. He waited on the plateau, his dog whimpering fearfully at his feet, while the boy guided his mysterious sylvan savoir to his location. “Less than a half-hour,” said Victor, “out of the depth of the forest came the strangest and wildest creature one could possibly see…”

“The hairy creature,” he continued, “for that was what it was, walked toward me without the slightest fear. The wild person was a woman. Her face was almost Negro black and her long straight hair fell to her waist. In height she would be about six feet, but her chest and shoulders were well above the average in breadth.”

Victor told Graves that, although he had already met several wildmen by this time, he had never seen anyone quite so savage in appearance as this woman. “I’m sure that if that wild woman laid hands on me,” Victor said, “she’d break every bone in my body.”

The creature glanced at the boy before rounding on Victor, her face contorted with rage. Then, something truly remarkable happened. Using St’at’imcets, the tongue of the Douglas First Nation (a branch of the Lillooet tribe whose members lived at the northern end of Harrison Lake), the wild woman snarled, “You have shot my friend!”

 

Victor, who knew the Douglas language, replied that he had mistaken the boy for a bear, and that he was sorry. Ignoring him, the wild woman proceeded to dance around the boy, chanting the word “yahoo” in a loud voice. Every time she vociferated, a similar reply came from the mountain.

Soon, the wild woman was joined by another creature like her, who carried a six-foot-long cord which Victor suspected was either a snake or the intestine of some animal. “But whatever it was,” he said, “she constantly struck the ground with it.”

At the end of this strange ceremony, the second wild woman effortlessly picked up the boy with one hairy hand. That accomplished, she turned towards Charley Victor, pointed the cord at him, and said, “Siwash, you’ll never kill another bear.” With that, the wild women and the boy disappeared into the woods.”

With tears in his eyes, Charley Victor admitted to J.W. Burns that, indeed, had had not shot a bear nor any other animal since that fateful day.

The Wild Man of Agassiz, B.C.

Another wildman story which J.W. Burns included in his article derives from a letter which Burns received from a young native man from Vancouver named William (or perhaps Herbert) Point.

According to the letter, Point and a native girl named Adaline August decided to pick wild hops one day in late September 1927, in the wilderness near Agassiz, B.C. When they were finished, they returned to August’s father’s orchard by way of the railroad track. Along the way, August noticed something walking along the tracks in their direction.

“I looked up,” wrote Point, “but paid no attention to it, as I thought it was some person on his way to Agassiz. But as he came closer we noticed that his appearance was very odd, and on coming still closer we stood still and were astonished, seeing that the creature was naked and covered with hair like an animal.” Nearly scared stiff, Point picked up two stones with which he intended to hit the creature if it decided to attack him or August.

“He was twice as big as the average man,” Point wrote of the creature, “with hands so long that they almost touched the ground. It seemed to me that his eyes were very large and the lower part of his nose was wide and spread over the greater part of his face…”

Terrified at the creature’s appearance, the teenagers ran all the way to Agassiz. There, they told the story of their encounter to a group of natives who were enjoying themselves after a day of berry-picking. The elders there informed them that the creature belonged to a race of hairy giants who had always lived in the mountains, making their homes in tunnels and caves.

Etymology of the Word “Sasquatch”

There are two factors which make J.W. Burns’ 1929 article in Maclean’s magazine especially remarkable. The first is that, in Charley Victor’s tale of the wild woman of Hatzic, the wild woman around whom the story revolves demonstrated the ability to speak, incidentally in the dialect of the Douglas First Nation. To the best of this author’s knowledge, this is the first of only two stories in which a North American wildman is purported to speak.

The second factor which makes Burns’ 1929 article truly remarkable is that is widely believed to be the first instance in which the word “Sasquatch” appears in print. Although there are older articles which reference the wildmen of the Pacific Northwest, Burns’ is the supposedly the first to actually refer to these creatures as “Sasquatch”- the name we know them by today.

The Accepted Explanation

Most sources which purport to explain the etymology of “Sasquatch” claim that the word is Burns’ Anglophonic perversion of the word “Sasq’ets”- a Halkomelem word meaning “hairy mountain man” (Halkomelem is a Coast Salish language spoken by the Chehalis, the Skwah, and other indigenous groups from the Fraser Delta).

Gian J. Quasar’s Theory

One researcher named Gian J. Quasar put forth an interesting alternative theory regarding the origin of the word “Sasquatch” in his book Recasting Bigfoot. Without citing any evidence to back his assertion, he claimed that the word “Sasquatch” was really a combination of two words: “Saskahaua”, and “Kinchotch”. “Saskahaua”, Quasar claimed, was the British Columbian district for which J.W. Burns became Indian agent. And “Kinchotch”, as Quasar correctly pointed out, is a Chinook Jargon term meaning “English”, which derived from the words “King George” (Chinook Jargon is an old pidgin trade language from the Pacific Northwest). According to Quasar, the Coast Salish Indians from the Fraser Delta area referred to hairy wildmen as “Saskahaua Kinchotch”- literally “Englishmen from Saskahaua”. J.W. Burns, Quasar claims, contracted this phrase into the simpler word “Sasquatch”.

There is one major problem with Quasar’s theory: to the best of this author’s knowledge, there was never a “Saskahaua” district in British Columbia.

A Closer Look at Burns’ Article

A closer look at J.W. Burns’ 1929 article reveals that the truth behind the origin of the word “Sasquatch” may have evaded both Gian Quasar and mainstream etymologists. In his article, Burns quotes Skwah Indian Charley Victor as saying of B.C.’s hairy giants:

“The strange people, of whom there are but few now- rarely seen and seldom met… are known by the name of Sasquatch, or, ‘the hairy mountain men’.”

Even more importantly, Burns later quotes directly from a letter written by William Point, the young native man from Vancouver who saw a wildman on the railroad tracks near Agassiz. An excerpt from this letter reads:

“Old Indians who were present said: the wild man was no doubt a ‘Sasquatch,’ a tribe of hairy people whom they claim have always lived in the mountains- in tunnels and caves.”

Assuming that Burns faithfully recorded these lines as they were said and written, it appears that the word “Sasquatch” may actually be an old Halkomelem word (or, at the very least, William Point’s interpretation of the Chehalis word for B.C.’s hairy wildmen) and not some invention of J.W. Burns’.

The Story Behind the Sasquatch Mountain Resort

At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that Mount Keenan (formerly Mount Morris), home of the Sasquatch Mountain Resort, is the birthplace of the word “Sasquatch”. Indeed, it is the setting of the first story of Burns’ article, in which Chehalis man Peter Williams had a brush with an angry Sasquatch at the mountain’s base.

In 1940, Burns wrote another even more dramatic story of a Sasquatch encounter on Mount Keenan which is perhaps the most extraordinary Sasquatch story ever written. This tale is so remarkable that it deserves an article all to itself. If this interests you, please check in with us next week to discover the incredible story behind the naming of the Sasquatch Mountain Resort.

Sources

  • Further Delving Into the Fascinating Life of J W Burns, from the June 2017 issue of the BCSCC (British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club) Quarterly, courtesy of American Fortean researcher Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra.
  • Introducing B.C.’s Hairy Giants: A collection of strange tales about British Columbia’s wild men as told by those who say they have seen them, by J.W. Burns in the April 1, 1929 issue of the magazine Maclean’s.
  • Recasting Bigfoot (2010), by Gian J. Quasar
  • Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (1961), Ivan T. Sanderson
  • Are They the Last Cavemen? British Columbia Startled by the Appearance of ‘Sasquatch’, a Strange Race of Hairy Giants, in the July 29, 1934 issue of the Sunday Journal and Star (Lincoln, Nebraska), by Francis Dickie

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The Mounties, the Mentalist, and the Murderer

The Mounties, the Mentalist, and the Murderer

Canadian history is riddled with strange stories of “mentalists” who, through the use of some mysterious inherent quality, make accurate predictions based on past events of which they ought to have no knowledge.

Last month, I wrote an article on incidents involving “Second Sight” on the Canadian frontier, most of them featuring clairvoyants of indigenous extraction.

A few days after that, I wrote another article on a case of Canadian clairvoyance, this one involving a murder which was witnessed by the brother of the victim in a vision more than 4,000 miles away.

Today, I’m pleased to bring you a similar story which was brought to my attention by my friend Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra, an American researcher with a passion for unexplained phenomena. Without further ado, here is the incredible true story of a Saskatchewan farmer who lost his life at the dawn of the Dirty Thirties, and of the incredible clairvoyant who helped bring his killer to justice.

Beechy, Saskatchwan

If you drive an hour and twenty minutes northeast of Swift Current, you’ll come to the lonely little village of Beechy, Saskatchewan. Today, this tiny community’s most famous attractions are the Beechy Sandcastles- bizarre-looking, wind-sculpted sandstone formations which overlook the “Lake Diefenbaker” section of the South Saskatchewan River. Ninety years ago, however, this strange little place in the middle of the Saskatchewan prairies was the site of an even stranger mystery involving two Mounties, a mentalist, and a brutal murder.

Professor Henry Gladstone

Our story begins on the eve of December 10, 1930, in Beechy’s little movie theatre. It was Wednesday night, and in order to help the local farmers and their families beat the mid-week winter blues, the establishment’s proprietor had brought in a mind-reader from Saskatoon. His name was Professor Henry Gladstone.

Professor Gladstone was a tall, sombre-eyed gentleman with silver hair and a piercing gaze. He stood gravely on the stage, his hands clasped behind his back, and asked for volunteers to assist him with his act. Soon, the good folks of Beechy were roaring with laughter as grey-bearded old-timers and fresh-faced farm kids performed all manner of hilarious antics under Gladstone’s hypnotic direction.

Suddenly, the elderly mentalist stopped in the middle of his act and pointed his finger at a genial rancher named Bill Taylor. “You there,” he said solemnly. “The man you’re thinking about… he was a good friend of yours, wasn’t he?”

Immediately, a hush fell over the crowd, and the colour drained from Taylor’s face. The rancher nodded slowly, mutely affirming that the mentalist had read his mind.

“I’m sorry to tell you this, son,” Gladstone continued, “but he was murdered. Brutally murdered! There was blood on the snow.”

Suddenly, the mentalist pointed at another audience member- Constable Charles Edward Carey, an RCMP officer dressed in plainclothes. “That’s him!” Gladstone proclaimed. “That’s the man.”

Constable Carey sat up in his chair, startled. His shooting hand instinctively dropped to the butt of the revolver that was holstered at his side.

“That’s the one,” Gladstone continued, “who will find the body of the murdered man. And I’ll be with him when he does!”

The Disappearance of Scotty McLachlan

Constable Charles Carey knew from the moment Bill Taylor nodded his head that the man he had been thinking of- the man whom Gladstone said was murdered- could only be Scotty McLachlan, one of Taylor’s close friends.

James Stewart “Scotty” McLachlan was a local rancher who once owned a plot of land in an area known as Coteau Plains. Nearly three years earlier, he had sold his land and most of his belongings to his partner, a 23-year-old farmer named John Franck Schumacher. Shortly thereafter, in January 1928, he suddenly and inexplicably vanished.

At the behest of his relatives, the RCMP launched an investigation into Scotty McLachlan’s disappearance. Several local farmers recalled that McLachlan, in the weeks preceding his disappearance, had often spoken of leaving Saskatchewan for British Columbia. His partner, Schumacher, also informed them that, several days before his disappearance, McLachlan had packed his gear as if in preparation for a great journey. Try as they might, however, the Mounties could find no trace of Scotty McLachlan nor any evidence suggesting he had made a westward journey. Without any leads to follow, they dropped the case. The mystery of Scotty McLachlan’s strange disappearance had haunted the village of Beechy, Saskatchewan, ever since.

The Mounties

Following Professor Gladstone’s eerie revelation, Constable Carey phoned up Detective-Corporal Jack Woods of the RCMP’s Criminal Investigation Bureau. Woods, who operated out of Saskatoon at that time, was a hard-nosed detective who hardly believed in the possibility of extrasensory perception. A lead was a lead, though, and Woods desperately wanted to get to the bottom of the McLachlan mystery- a black mark on his otherwise spotless record. The detective shrugged into his heavy buffalo-skin coat, started up his squad car, and headed down the snow-packed Whitecap Trail for Beechy.

The following day, after a brief meeting in the Beechy barracks, Detective-Corporal Woods and Constable Carey interviewed a number of locals, starting with the visiting Professor Gladstone. Gladstone told the Mounties that he had read Bill Taylor’s mind via some sort of Second Sight, the nature of which he did not fully understand himself. He claimed that he knew Scotty McLachlan was murdered, having received a vision of his bloody corpse in the snow, but did not yet know the identity of his killer. “Allow me to accompany you,” the mentalist insisted. “I will know him when I see him.” Begrudgingly, the Mounties obliged.

The Investigation

Next, Woods and Carey began questioning local farmers and ranchers. After several interviews, a pattern began to emerge. Many of the sod-busters and cowhands who plied their trade in the Beechy area suspected that Scotty McLachlan’s disappearance had something to do with a pretty farm girl for whose affection he had competed with a local wrangler. Shortly after McLachlan’s disappearance, his rival proposed to the girl, and in no time the two were happily married.

The Mounties paid a visit to the cowboy in question, who told them another tale entirely. He readily admitted that he and McLachlan had not seen eye to eye, and had engaged a number of impassioned disagreements over the years. But McLachlan’s real enemy, he maintained, was his partner, Schumacher, with whom he’d often had violent quarrels. Another local farmer once told him in confidence that Schumacher “called on him one morning madder n’ hell and said he’d kill the damned Scotsman one of these days.”

Woods and Carey, accompanied by the tall, taciturn Professor Gladstone, then paid a visit to the farmer of whom the cowboy had spoken. Seated around the man’s kitchen table with mugs of steaming coffee in their hands, the Mounties asked the rustic if he recalled hearing Schumacher make death threats against McLachlan. The farmer denied having any recollection of the incident, and brushed off the cowboy’s tale as a baseless country canard.

The Mounties thanked the farmer for his time and headed for the door when Professor Gladstone spoke up from out of the shadows. “I’ll tell you what happened,” he said sternly. “You were sick in bed. Schumacher pushed through the door, told you he’d had a quarrel with his partner, and swore he’d kill that damned Scotty before he was through with him.”

Stunned, the slack-jawed farmer sank back into his chair. “You’re right,” he admitted after a long pause. “Schumacher came to my place, like you said, cussed his partner and said he’d kill that damned Scotchman yet. But how on earth did you know?”

Schumacher’s Farm

Woods, Carey, and Gladstone left the bewildered farmer and made for the farmhouse of John Schumacher in nearby Coteau Plains. By the time they reached the gravel road that led to Schumacher’s property, it was evening. The sun kissed the horizon in the west, painting the clouds above in a glowing gradient of crimson and violet that set fire to the prairie sky.

Soon, Schumacher’s two-storied farmhouse and red barn rose up from the surrounding snow. An overall-clad farmhand greeted the lawmen at the door and informed them that Schumacher had gone to town for gasoline, and would probably be arriving shortly.

“We’re water-diviners from the Department of Agriculture,” Detective Woods lied. “Mind if we take a look around?”

“Suit yourself, boys,” the farmhand said with a dismissive wave.

The three men tramped around in the snow outside Schumacher’s farmhouse, gradually making their way across a field and up a hill towards a red-painted barn. Suddenly, when they were about half way up the slope, Professor Gladstone stopped and sniffed the air. “There’s something strange around here,” he finally declared. “A peculiar odor.”

“Sure is,” said Woods, grinning as he kicked away the snow beneath his feet to reveal a pile of frozen manure. “You’ll find it wherever there’s a bunch of cows.”

“There’s been trouble here for Scotty McLachlan,” Gladstone continued, ignoring the Mountie. “His body is around here somewhere. I can feel it.”

John Franck Schumacher

By this time, it was getting dark, and the Mounties had no time to verify the mentalist’s assertion. The three men returned to the squad car and headed back down the road to Beechy.

All of a sudden, a huge truck loomed in the car’s high beams, thundering down the road towards them without any headlights on. Woods managed to avoid a head-on collision by swerving into the ditch, nearly flipping the squad car in the process. The truck roared on past, leaving a cloud of dust and exhaust in its wake.

Without skipping a beat, Woods turned the squad car around and tore after the truck. He soon overtook it and pulled it over, and there are the wheel was John Schumacher. “You’re the guy we’re looking for,” said Woods. “We want to talk to you about your partner, Scotty!”

“OK,” the farmer mumbled, “I’ll see what I can tell you.”

The Interrogation

That night, Woods and Carey interrogated Schumacher at the Beechy barracks, mercilessly barraging him with questions regarding the days leading up to his partner’s disappearance. Schumacher provided the same answers he had three years prior, maintaining that his partner had packed up and probably left for British Columbia. “I paid McLachlin $150 for his horse and cattle and gave him a note for another $200 for the rest of the stuff.”

Just as Woods was about to terminate the interview, Professor Gladstone, who had been standing quietly in the shadows, began to pace about the room, his hand stroking his wrinkled forehead. Finally, he snapped his fingers and turned towards Schumacher.

“The barn!” he exclaimed. “The barn!” The mentalist planted his hands on the table and fixed his eyes on the astonished farmer. “I’ll tell you just what happened,” he said, slowly working himself up into a frenzy. “Scotty left the house… went over to the barn. You followed him. Forced him into a quarrel.”

Schumacher squirmed in his chair.

“There was a fight,” Gladstone continued, perspiration trickling down his face. “Scotty fell, and you struck, and struck, and struck… Then you buried his body near the barn.” With that, the elderly Professor collapsed into a chair, exhausted.

When Detective Woods and Constable Carey satisfied themselves that the old man would recover from his outburst, they turned their attention towards Schumacher. The farmer was white as a ghost, his countenance conveying superstitious horror.

“Better tell us what you know about this business, John,” said Carey, struggling to mask his own astonishment. “It’ll make it a whole lot easier.”

After staring at the mentalist for some time, Schumacher shook his head. “I don’t know what he’s talking about,” he whispered.

“Have it your way,” said Woods. Turning to Carey, he said, “Put him in the cell. We’ll bring charges against him in the morning.”

The Body

Early the following morning, Woods, Carey, and Gladstone, equipped with shovels, escorted Schumacher to his own barn. They found the place crawling with spectators. Word of Schumacher’s arrest, it seemed, had reached the ears of the Beechy locals.

On the way to the barn, Gladstone stopped at the same place he had the previous evening. “Beneath that manure pile,” he said to the Mounties, “you’ll find what’s left of Scotty.”

Woods and Carey looked at each other and shrugged. Although neither of them could bring themselves to fully believe in the efficacy of the mentalist’s strange gift, they decided to put his theory to the test. They made good use of the bystanders by having them chip away at the frozen manure pile and the solid earth beneath with picks and shovels.

For nearly two hours, the farmers toiled fruitlessly. Finally, just as the Mounties were about to pack it in, one of the labourers let out a cry. The man plunged his shovel into a nearby snowbank, went down on his hands and knees, and wrested a woolen sock from the frozen earth.

The excavation continued at a feverish pace, and in no time, a complete human skeleton dressed in ragged winter clothing, with matted hair and dried flesh still clinging to the skull, was liberated from its icy tomb. “That’s Scotty, all right!” said a farmer who had watched spectacle unfold. “I’d know that scarf and mackinaw anywhere.”

The Confession

That night, John Schumacher was subjected to another grilling by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, this time in the jail at Saskatoon. After a long, gruelling interrogation, he finally broke down and confessed that he had, indeed killed Scotty McLachlan in his barn, just as Professor Gladstone said.

On the morning of January 16, 1928, Schumacher told the Mounties, Scotty had returned to the farm after being away all night. He had packed his personal effects, and stated that he was leaving for the Pacific Coast. The two partners

engaged in an altercation revolving around the money that Schumacher owed McLachlan. The argument turned violent when Scotty lunged at Schumacher with a shovel. In self-defence, Schumacher seized a pitchfork that was resting against the barn wall and ran his partner through.

Realizing the enormity of his crime, a guilt-ridden Schumacher retreated to the farmhouse, where he spent an hour and a half contemplating his next course of action. Finally, he returned to the barn, where he checked Scotty’s pulse and found him dead. He dragged his partner’s corpse by one arm to a site about fifty metres from the barn and 150 yards from his house. He buried the body there, on the side of a hill. He threw straw over the corpse, and later covered it with manure, to which he added from time to time.

The Trial

In March, 1931, John Franck Schumacher was tried for the murder of James Stewart “Scotty” McLachlan. The proceedings took place in the courtroom of Kindersley, Saskatchewan. Disagreement over the significance of triple fractures to McLachlan’s skull saved Schumacher from the gallows. Ultimately, the jury decided that Schumacher had killed McLachlan in self-defence. The farmer was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years in the penitentiary at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Newspapers indicate that John Schumacher was married, and that his wife gave birth to his first child during his trial.

Aftermath

And what of Professor Gladstone? An article in the February 2, 1931 issue of the Winnipeg Tribune suggests that the mentalist’s uncanny gift may have temporarily deserted him. About a month before Schumacher’s trial, an arsonist set fire to Gladstone’s apartment in Saskatoon. The elderly clairvoyant’s adventure in Beechy had made him gravely ill, and a bedridden Gladstone had to be carried from the inferno by a fireman and a police officer onto the nearby street.

Professor Henry Gladstone lost about $10,000-worth of personal belongings in the fire that consumed his apartment building. It appeared, however, that he may have also regained his mysterious ability, as he correctly predicted that a body would be found in the ashes.

Sources

  • “How a Mentalist Solved a Murder”, from the January 1959 issue of the magazine Fate, by Philip H. Godsell; courtesy of American Fortean researcher Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra.
  • “Mind Reader Aids to Solve Murder: Indicates Where Body of Main, Slain in 1928, Lies,” from the December 16, 1939 issue of The [Montreal] Gazette.
  • “Mind Reader Leads Police to Body of Buried Man”, from December 15, 1930 issue of the St. Cloud Times.
  • “Fire Destroys $150,000 Block in Saskatoon: Occupants Escape in Night Attire With Aid of Fireman, Police,” from the February 2, 1931 issue of The Winnipeg Tribune.
  • “Sask. Farmer Accused of Murder Arraigned,” from the December 16, 1930 issue of the Manitoba Free Press.
  • “Schumacher To Be Tried For Murder: Coteau Hills Farmer Committed on Charge of Slaying His Partner,” from the December 31, 1930 issue of the Winnipeg Free Press.
  • “Mind-Reader’s ‘Murder Done’ Solves Mystery: Police Unearth Half-Garbed Skeleton of Murdered Man”, from the December 15, 1930 issue of The Ottawa Journal.

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The Klondike Gold Rush

The Klondike Gold Rush

The Klondike Gold Rush is, without a doubt, one of the most famous events in Canadian history. This brief but exhilarating period saw thousands of men and women from all over the world flock to the Yukon goldfields in search of fortune and adventure. It spawned outrageous villains like “Soapy” Smith, and bred celebrated Canadian heroes like Sam Steele. The Klondike Gold Rush inspired the poems of Robert Service, the novels of Jack London, and the films of Charlie Chaplin. It gave birth to the Northwestern genre, and changed the face of the Canadian North forever.

Here at Mysteries of Canada, we’ve put together a six-part series detailing the history of this great Canadian event.

Part 1: Background

The first part of our series describes the context behind the Klondike Gold Rush. First, it outlines the geography of the Yukon, the territory in which the Klondike is located. Next, it pinpoints the exact location of the Klondike region in this vast northwestern territory. Finally, it details the history of the Yukon pioneers who panned for gold in the Canadian Northwest long before gold was struck in the Klondike.

Part 2: The Discoveries

The second part of our series describes the discoveries made by Robert Henderson, George Carmack, and “Skookum” Jim Mason in the summer of 1896. These three prospectors discovered gold nuggets in the Klondike, sparking a small local gold rush.

Part 3: The Advent

The third part of our series details the small local gold rush that resulted from the discoveries of 1896. First, it describes the handful of lucky pioneers who wrested fortunes from the Klondike’s creek beds. After that, it describes the founding of Dawson City, a rough mining camp situated at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers. In time, Dawson would become the centre of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Part 4: The Stampede

The fourth part of our series outlines the true beginning of the Klondike Gold Rush. First, we describe how prospecting pioneers returned to civilization from the Klondike bearing fortunes in raw northern gold. Following these prospectors’ triumphant returns, restless men and women from all over Seattle and San Francisco prepared to set out for the Klondike, rallying to the cry of “Klondike or bust!”. Enterprising businessmen took advantage of the opportunity and marketed their wares as “Klondike grade”.

After that, we describe the rise of the towns of Skagway and Dyea on the Lynn Canal. We also detail the White Pass and the Chilkoot Trail, two major trails over the Coast Mountains over which Stampeders would travel on their way to the Klondike.

Part 5: Dawson Trails

The fifth part of our series describes the various trails that Stampeders took to get to the Klondike. The most famous of these is the Bennett-Dawson Trail. Stampeders who took this route travelled from the Lynn Canal over the Coast Mountains by way of the White Pass or the Chilkoot Trail. On the other side of the divide, on the shores of Lake Bennett, they built canoes from green lumber. When spring breakup came, they paddled across Lake Bennett and down a succession of lakes and rivers to Dawson City.

Other trails to the Klondike include the grueling Ashcroft Trail up British Columbia; the arduous “All-Canadian” overland route from Edmonton, Alberta; the suicidal “All-American” route over the crevasse-ridden Valdez and Malaspina Glaciers; and the St. Michael Trail up the Yukon River from its mouth.

Part 6: Dawson City

Our sixth and final post on the Klondike Gold Rush describes Dawson City, around which the rush revolved. It details the colourful characters who populated the boom town, whose exploits are now the stuff of legend. Finally, our series ends with a commentary on the legacy of the Klondike Gold Rush.

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10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario

10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario

(That You Can Stay in Tonight!)

What comes to mind when you think about Canada?”

This question was the subject of a YouTube video I watched the other day in which Japanese students were asked to share their thoughts on the Great White North. Aside from general things like maple syrup, cold temperatures, and wilderness, the most common answers were “Toronto”, “Niagara Falls”, and “Justin Bieber”. All three of these (to my shame as a Western Canadian) are products of Ontario.

Indeed, the province of Ontario is one of Canada’s most popular destinations. This is true for international globetrotters and Canadian tourists alike. According to Tourism Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area hosted over 43.7 million visitors in 2017- a record high. And according to Statistics Canada, Ontario alone accounted for 44% of all overnight visits in Canada in 2016. Considering all the amazing attractions the Heartland Province has to offer, from Ottawa’s Rideau Canal to Toronto’s CN Tower, this is hardly surprising.

While Ontario certainly has a knack for attracting tourists, some say that its allure is so strong that some visitors refuse to leave, even in death. Like all regions with turbulent histories, Ontario has its fair share of haunted hotels. From eerie inns to mysterious motels, these creepy accommodations are said to be occupied by spectral guests who never truly checked out. So if you’re planning on visiting Ontario this summer, choose your lodgings wisely, or you might find yourself bunking with a roommate from the great beyond.

Without further ado, here are 10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario, all of which you can stay in tonight… if you dare!

 

1. Chateau Laurier

Let’s begin our tour of Ontario’s haunted hotels in Ottawa, the Capital of Canada.

Canada’s Capital Region has a number of reputedly haunted hotels. One of these is the Grand Hotel, situated in the town of Carleton Place about 46 kilometres west of downtown Ottawa. This establishment was an old stomping ground (pun intended) of celebrated Canadian folksinger “Stompin’” Tom Connors. Some say that the sound of Tom’s cowboy boots thumping out a rhythm on his plywood “stompin’ board” still echoes throughout the corridors.

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier

One of Ottawa’s most famous haunted hotels is the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a magnificent French Gothic palace overlooking the Ottawa River. This five-star castle was named in honour of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s seventh Prime Minister, who helped secure the site of its construction.

Over the years, the Chateau Laurier has hosted a number of famous guests, from John Lennon to Princess Diana. Countless heads of state have stayed in the hotel during their diplomatic visits to Parliament Hill, a five minute walk across Plaza Bridge. The Chateau Laurier even served as the permanent residence of Canada’s eleventh Prime Minister, R.B. Bennett. The powerful men and women who have stayed there over years, coupled with its architectural resemblance to the nearby Parliament buildings, have earned the Chateau Laurier the nickname “the third Chamber of Parliament” (the other two being the House of Commons and the House of Lords). In a skit celebrating the Chateau’s 100th anniversary in 2012, Canadian comedian Rick Mercer quipped, “I would guess more has been accomplished in the bar of this hotel than in the Parliament building.”

A Little History

The Chateau Laurier is said to be haunted by the ghost of Charles Melville Hays, the man who commissioned it in the early 1900’s. Hays was the president of the Grand Trunk Railway, a Montreal-based railway system which connected Eastern Canada with New England.

Canada’s Railroad Era

In the early 1900’s, settlers from all over Europe flocked to Canada to settle the Prairie Provinces. In those days, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and much of Manitoba were sparsely populated. Canada’s federal government hoped to fill this vast and wild domain with farmers and ranchers in order to discourage the United States from invading it. Accordingly, they marketed the Canadian Prairies to prospective homesteaders as the “Last Best West”.

Settlement of the Canadian interior was made possible by the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Canada’s first transcontinental railroad. European navvies and Chinese “coolies” built this enormous thoroughfare over the plains and blasted it through the mountains back in the 1880’s. The Canadian Pacific Railway effectively bridged Eastern Canada with British Columbia, allowing for a united Canada that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

In the first decade of the 20th Century, the Canadian Northern Railway built the second trans-Canada railway. This line connected Quebec City with Vancouver.

The Third Trans-Canadian Railway

Charles Melville Hays dreamed of constructing a third transcontinental railway across Canada. With the help of Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, he eventually succeeded in extending the Grand Trunk Railway from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Prince Rupert, BC. This more northerly transcontinental railroad crossed the Rocky Mountains via the Yellowhead Pass, running through what is now Jasper National Park. Construction of this so-called “Grand Trunk Pacific Railway” commenced in 1905.

The Grand Railway Hotels

Decades earlier, the Grand Trunk’s main rivals built several luxury hotels, like the Banff Springs and Chateau Lake Louise, to serve their passengers. These so-called “grand railway hotels” succeeded not only in increasing the railroad traffic, but also in attracting wealthy European tourists. Following his rivals’ lead, Charles Melville Hays arranged for the construction of his own railway hotel, the Chateau Laurier.

 

The Death of Charles Melville Hays

After four years of construction, the Chateau Laurier was complete. Hays scheduled its grand opening to the public on April 26, 1912. About a month before the ceremony, the railway tycoon made a business trip to London, England. There, he attended several meetings in the Grand Trunk Railway’s head office.

Of course, Hays fully intended to return to Canada in time for his hotel’s grand opening. He wouldn’t miss it for the world. Hoping to arrive in style, he booked passage aboard an enormous new ocean liner. This magnificent craft was the largest and most luxurious ship on earth at the time. Hays, his wife, his daughter, his son-in-law, his secretary, and his maid all shared a deluxe suite on the steamship’s upper deck as the RMS Titanic set out on its maiden voyage.

On the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic collided with an iceberg about 600 kilometres south of Newfoundland. Much to the passengers’ astonishment, this seagoing colossus began to sink. In accordance with the “women and children first” protocol, a British maritime code of conduct, Hays and his male comrades chivalrously escorted their female companions into one of the Titanic’s twenty lifeboats. The gentleman remained on the sinking ship, assuring the ladies that there was plenty of time for everyone else on board to be rescued.

Tragically, Charles Melville Hays, his son-in-law, and his secretary perished that night in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. They were joined by more than 1,500 other passengers, who similarly met their ends in the icy waters. A ship called the Minia recovered Hays’ body several days later, and the railwayman’s corpse was buried at Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal.

The Ghost of Charles Hays

The headmen of the Grand Trunk Railway postponed the grand opening of the Chateau Laurier to June 12, 1912, on account of Hays’ untimely death. Although the railwayman never made it to the ceremony, some say that he attended in spirit. Furthermore, a number of strange occurrences experienced by hotel patrons and staff seem to suggest that Hays’ spirit still lingers in the halls of the Chateau Laurier to this very day.

Spooky Happenings

Some guests who have stayed at the Chateau Laurier claim to have felt a mysterious presence in the corridors when no one else was around.

One lady claimed to have woken up in the middle of the night with the distinct impression that someone was sitting on her bed. When she looked to see who it was, she found herself alone in the room.

Another woman claimed to have felt a phantom hand caressing her arm and shoulder in the bathroom of her suite. Later that night, while removing makeup in front of a large mirror, something caught her eye in the mirror’s reflection. The woman watched in horror as the closet door behind her slowly swung open on its own.

Patrick Watson’s Experience

One of the most famous spooky tales to come out of the Chateau Laurier is the experience of Patrick Watson, former chairman of the CBC (a major Canadian media company). One night in the 1980’s, while staying in one of the hotel suites, Watson awoke to a sharp crack which seemed to come from the middle of the room. Fearing that a gunman had entered his suite, Watson quietly slipped out of bed and prepared to confront the intruder. To his bewilderment, he found that the source of the sound came from a heavy glass ashtray which had inexplicably split in two.

The following night, Watson woke with a start, this time roused by a loud crash in the bathroom. His heart hammering in his chest, the media man crept over to investigate. To his surprise, he discovered that his metal shaving kit had somehow leapt from behind the sink faucet, where he had wedged it before going to bed, to the floor on the other end of the bathroom.

Watson described his creepy experience in a letter to Joan E. Rankin, author of the book Meet Me at the Chateau. “Both of these events,” he wrote, “though trivial, were inexplicable and left me quite shaken. I will never forget them.”

 

2. Ottawa Jail Hostel

Another older haunted hotel in Ottawa is the Ottawa Jail Hostel, a fortress of stone and iron which once served as the city’s main prison. Here, patrons can spend their nights in cells once occupied by thieves, murderers, and madmen. Some say that the anguished souls of bygone criminals still serve time there, carrying out their sentences from beyond the grave.

Back when it was employed as a maximum security prison, the Ottawa Jail was notorious for its nightmarish living conditions. Petty offenders shared cells with hardened criminals. Cruel guards murdered prisoners they didn’t like. Tortured shrieks issued from dark, isolated oubliettes where dissidents spent months in solitary confinement, spread-eagled and chained to the floor. Considering all the suffering and death that has taken place there over the years, it is no surprise that the Ottawa Jail Hostel is considered by many to be one of the most haunted places in Canada.

Ghostly Criminals

As might be expected, some of the ghosts of the Ottawa Jail are said to be far from friendly. Ghostly thieves are known to steal guests’ belongings from time to time. Staff members have reported being slapped by invisible hands. One employee even lost several of her fingers when a heavy steel door suddenly and inexplicably slammed shut on her hand.

The Tunnel

Back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the sanitation situation in the Ottawa Jail was appalling, and disease ran rampant through its wings. Infected prisoners were often left to die in the Quarantine Room beside the kitchen. After they passed away, their bodies were wrapped in sheets and incinerated or buried in mass graves on prison property. Some say that on quiet nights, the howls of these tormented souls echo throughout an underground tunnel connecting the prison with the courtyard, though which their bodies passed en route to their final resting place.

The Secret Staircase

Another supposedly haunted section of the Ottawa Jail is a stairway known as the “secret staircase”, which connected the prison with the home of the jail’s governor. Every once in a while, prisoners would leap to their deaths in this stairwell, preferring death to the medieval horrors of the Ottawa Jail. And in 1910, a particular group of prisoners is said to have heaved their guard over the stairwell’s railings, sending him plummeting to his death.

As a result of the violent deaths that occurred there, the secret staircase is purportedly the dwelling place of a number of restless spirits. One of these is a “vampire ghost” said to feed on the sick. This bizarre legend has its origins in a cryptic inscription found on the stairwell during renovations in 1972. The inscription reads:

“I am a non-veridical Vampire who will vanquish you all. One by one I will ornate your odorous flesh with famished fangs. But Who? Are there 94 or 95 steps to the ninth floor? A book on the top shelf will lead you on the right path.”

The 9th Floor

The ninth floor of the Ottawa Jail once housed the innocent wives and children of debtors who were unable to pay their dues. Guests staying on this floor today sometimes report hearing the muffled cries of children and the wailing of women in the middle of the night.

Every once in a while, visitors to the Ottawa Jail report seeing the apparition of a ghostly woman who sometimes appears wearing a hood. One tourist captured the ghostly reflection of a woman’s face in the glass of a display case with her camera. The apparition appears to be standing right beside the photographer.

The Ghost of Patrick James Whelan

One of the Ottawa Jail Hostel’s most famous permanent residents is said to be the spirit of Patrick James Whelan, an Irishman accused of assassinating Thomas D’Arcy McGee, a Father of Canadian Confederation.

Patrick James Whelan was born in the city of Galway on the Emerald Isle in around 1840. A tailor by trade, he came to North America when he was about 25 years old. Whelan worked various jobs in Quebec City, Buffalo, Hamilton, and Montreal, leading a somewhat transient lifestyle. Eventually, he settled in Ottawa, where he married an upper class woman thirty years his senior.

The Fenian Brotherhood

Throughout the mid 1800’s, much of the world was embroiled in a series of violent political revolutions, from the February Revolution in France to the bloody Taiping Rebellion in China. Ireland, whose Gaelic nationalists had resisted English rule for three hundred years, was by no means immune to this trend.

Many patriotic Irishmen in both the Old Country and the New World yearned for a sovereign Irish republic

independent of British rule. This sentiment led to a political movement known as the Fenian Rising.

In the United States, supporters of the Fenian movement formed an organization called the Fenian Brotherhood. In 1866, this Irish republican militia launched three raids on British Army forts in Canada, hoping to blackmail Great Britain into giving Ireland independence. All of these Fenian raids ultimately ended in failure.

Thomas D’Arcy McGee

One prominent political figure during this turbulent time was an Irish-Canadian immigrant named Thomas D’Arcy McGee.

In his younger years, McGee had been an Irish republican rebel. Despising British rule in Ireland, he struggled to foment a peasant revolution from which an independent Irish republic might emerge. After partaking in a failed rebellion in 1848, McGee fled to the United States, a republic that he admired greatly. McGee founded several of his own newspapers in New York City, Boston, and Buffalo, in which he wrote in favour of American expansionism and expressed his desire to see the United States absorb Canada.

Over time, life in the United States completely changed McGee’s opinions regarding democracy and republicanism. As a staunch Irish Catholic, he became especially disenchanted with Protestant America’s general disdain for Catholicism. Although British Canada was largely Protestant as well, McGee felt that it exercised significantly more tolerance towards the French and Irish Catholics under its rule. In 1857, he left the United States for Montreal, where he began to encourage Canadian devotion to the British Empire.

The Shooting

In Canada, Thomas D’Arcy McGee involved himself in politics and eventually gained a significant following. He denounced the Fenian cause that he has once adhered to, and encouraged both Canada and Ireland to adopt a model of self-government within the framework of the British Empire. His speeches earned him enemies among many Irish republican radicals in Canada and the United States, who considered him a traitor to the cause.

On April 7, 1868, nearly a year after Canadian Confederation, McGee participated in a long parliamentary debate on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill which dragged on into the night. When the debate was finally finished, McGee walked back to his hotel, puffing on a cigar as he went. Just as he was about to enter the gates of the boarding house, a shot rang out from inside. McGee lurched backwards and collapsed onto the street, his jaw shattered by a .32 calibre bullet. The impact of the shot tore open the Irishman’s jugular, and Thomas D’Arcy McGee was dead within moments.

Judge, Jury, and Executioner

Following McGee’s assassination, Dominion Police officers arrested forty Irish-Canadians suspected of Fenian allegiance. One of these was Patrick James Whelan. Whelan had a .32 Smith & Wesson pistol on his person, each of its six chambers loaded. On April 9, the 28-year-old Irishman was considered the prime suspect in the assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee and charged with murder.

Whelan’s subsequent trial is considered by many to have been gravely unfair. With only circumstantial evidence against him, Whelan was ultimately convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. Upon hearing the jury’s verdict, he proclaimed “I am held to be a murderer. I am here, standing on the brink of my grave, and I wish to declare to you and my God that I am innocent, that I never committed this deed… I never took that man’s blood.”

After the trial, Whelan was confined in a cell in the top floor of the Ottawa Jail- the prison’s death row. For ten months, he awaited his execution. All the while, he persistently and vehemently insisted that he was innocent. Whelan appealed his conviction twice, but to no avail.

On February 11, 1869, Patrick J. Whelan received his last rites and bravely mounted the scaffold at the Ottawa Jail before 5,000 witnesses. After proclaiming his innocence one last time, he said, “I humbly ask forgiveness of any to whom I may have done harm, and I forgive all those who have wronged me. God save Ireland, and God save my soul.” On these words, Patrick J. Whelan was hanged. His body was later buried in an unmarked grave on prison property- according to legend, with the hangman’s noose still around his neck.

The Ghost of Patrick James Whelan

Legend has it that the spirit of Patrick James Whelan still haunts the Ottawa Jail Hostel to this very day, unable to rest without a proper Catholic burial. It is said that Whelan’s ghost sometimes appears to guests at night, walking straight through their cells with a Bible in his hand before vanishing before their eyes. Although the hotel is well-heated, the prison’s death row, where Whelan spent his final months, is always cold.

 

3. Hochelaga Inn

If you drive about two hours southwest of Ottawa, you’ll come to the city of Kingston, situated on the eastern shores of Lake Ontario near the head of the St. Lawrence River. Site of the tragic fire of 1840 and the birthplace of the Tragically Hip, Kingston is a place where, as reflected by the city motto, “history and innovation thrive.”

In the heart of this historic city, a hop, skip, and a jump from both the waterfront and Queen’s University, sits the historic Hochelaga Inn. Although hotel management denies that the Hochelaga is haunted, a couple of stories told by hotel patrons and staff seem to suggest otherwise.

A prominent local lawyer named John McIntyre built this elegant Victorian mansion in 1879. McIntyre studied law with Canada’s First Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, to whom he was related by marriage.

Following the death of McIntyre’s wife, Harriet, in 1903, John sold the property to the Bank of Montreal’s Hochelaga Foundation. In 1933, the Foundation sold the building to a local landlord, who converted it into an apartment complex. Fifty two years later, the building’s owners converted it into a bed and breakfast.

The Woman in Black

The Hochelaga Inn, some say, is haunted by the ghost of an elderly woman wearing a black, Victorian-style dress. This phantom’s favourite haunt is said to be a chair by the hotel’s front window, in which guests can see her from time to time. This ghost is purportedly inclined to play with the fire alarms, throw objects across hotel rooms, turn the television on to scare the housekeepers, and sing lullabies in the night.

One patron who was unaware of the hotel’s haunted reputation rented a room in the basement of the Hochelaga Inn. While the innkeeper led her and her husband to the room, she quipped that they were being relegated to the “haunted basement”. “The innkeeper propped the door open,” she wrote in a review, “so [that] we could look at the room… Just as we thought we would take it, someone or something pulled the door shut in front of my very eyes.” The woman and her husband did not relish the prospect of sharing the suite with an ethereal roommate, and decided to stay somewhere else that night.

The Woman and her Daughters

Another spooky story from the Hochelaga Inn took place in the summer of 2005.

One evening, a woman and her two teenage daughters checked into the hotel. They decided to stay in a two-bedroom suite, each bedroom separated from the other by a door. The mother stayed in one of the  bedrooms, while the girls shared a bed in the other.

Later that night, the woman woke up to find one of her daughters standing at the foot of her bed. “We have to get out of here right away,” the girl said.

The groggy mother assured her daughter that everything was alright, and urged her to go back to sleep. Without another sound, the girl turned around and walked back to her own room. As she drifted off to sleep, the woman vaguely wondered as to the cause for her daughter’s nocturnal visit. The girl must have been frightened, she reasoned, as she left the door between their rooms ajar.

No sooner had she fallen asleep than the woman woke up a second time, hearing quiet laughter at the foot of her bed. Yawning, she told her daughter to go back to bed, and to leave her be.

The Next Morning

The following morning, the woman noticed that the door separating her room from her daughters’ was closed. Even more curiously, she had to apply an unusual amount of force to open it, as if someone was holding it shut from the other side.

The woman asked her daughters why they had come into her room the previous night. Confused, both girls insisted that they had remained in bed all night long. With a chill running down her spine, the woman realized that the figure that had stood at the foot of her bed appeared as a black shadow, and that she hadn’t been able to make out any of its features in the darkness.

 

4. Brockamour Manor

On the opposite end of Lake Ontario is the town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, the historic capital of Upper Canada. Over the centuries, this site at the mouth of the Niagara River has witnessed a native genocide, two intercolonial battles, and a town-wide razing. Considering its rich and violent history, it is perhaps not so surprising that Niagara-On-The-Lake is considered by many to be the most haunted town in the country.

As might be expected of Canada’s most haunted town, Niagara-On-The-Lake has a number of reputedly haunted hotels. One of these haunted hotels in Ontario is Brockamour Manor, one of the oldest residences in town. Today, this 19th Century home functions as a charming bed and breakfast.

 

In order to fully appreciate the story behind the ghost of Brockamour Manor, a little historical context is required.

The War of 1812

In the early 1800’s, during the Napoleonic Wars, the British Royal Navy stationed several warships off the coast of New England. They hoped to prevent Napoleon’s France from trading with the United States. Many disaffected British sailors aboard these ships deserted their posts and defected to the United States. In order to replenish their ranks, British Naval crews impressed American sailors into service. Unsurprisingly, many of their new Shanghaied recruits similarly abandoned their posts and fled to America.

In the summer of 1807, the British Royal Navy decided to bring some of their deserters to justice. Accordingly, the crew of a particular British ship attacked and boarded an American frigate called the USS Chesapeake, on which a number of British expatriates served. Outraged at Britain’s lack of respect for American sovereignty, the United States declared war on Great Britain and prepared to invade Canadian territory. And thus the War of 1812 began.

Major-General Isaac Brock

At that time, the British Army in Upper Canada (a British province skirting the northern shores of the Great Lakes) fell under the command a daring officer named Isaac Brock. Popular opinion at that time held that Canada would easily fall to the Americans in the upcoming war. Nevertheless, Brock was determined to do all he could to repulse the Yankee invaders. He bolstered fortifications in Quebec City, built a navy for the Great Lakes, and made a military alliance with Chief Tecumseh, the leader of a powerful Indian confederacy from the Great Lakes region.

In mid-August, 1812, Brock and Tecumseh laid siege to Detroit- at that time, an American fort situated across the Detroit River from the British settlement of Sandwich (present-day Windsor, Ontario). By intimidating the enemy commander, they succeeded in capturing Detroit with very little bloodshed. Their stunning victory earned Brock a knighthood, as well as the nickname ‘The Hero of Canada’.

The Romance of Sir Isaac Brock and Sophia Shaw

In those days, a palisaded military complex called Fort George served as the headquarters of the British Army in Canada. Fort George stood near the mouth of the Niagara River, near Newark (present-day Niagara-On-The-Lake), the former provincial capital (The town of York (present-day Toronto) served as the capital of Upper Canada after 1796). Accordingly, duty demanded that Sir Isaac Brock spend a considerable amount of time there.

According to legend, Brock fell in love with Sophia Shaw, the beautiful daughter of fellow Major-General Aeneas Shaw, an officer of the Canadian Militia. Eventually, he asked the general for his daughter’s hand. To his dismay, Shaw refused. Although Brock was a decorated military commander, Shaw, for whatever reason, did not consider him an appropriate match for his daughter.

Despite this setback, Brock continued to see Sophia in secret. More often than not, the couple met at the home of Sophia’s sister, Isabella. Isabella was married to Captain John Powell, an officer stationed at Fort George who had built his home a short distance from the garrison back in 1809. Whenever Brock’s duties allowed him some R&R in the Fort George area, the Powell family home was the site of many a happy rendezvous. Eventually, Major-General Brock proposed to his sweetheart, and the two became secretly engaged.

October 13, 1812

In the early morning hours of October 13, 1812, Isaac Brock awoke in his quarters at Fort George to the thunder of distant cannons. He quickly slipped on his field uniform, supplementing it with the red sash that Tecumseh had gifted him as a token of friendship, and ordered a detachment to investigate the commotion. Brock was a man of action, however, and would not content himself by waiting for the detachment’s report. The officer mounted his horse and rode south to assess the situation himself.

Legend has it that, shortly after leaving the fort, Brock made a quick visit to Captain John Powell’s house in order to see his beloved Sophia. His betrothed served him a ‘stirrup cup’ of tea and bid him a fond farewell. Sophia waved her handkerchief at the general as he galloped off towards the sounds of battle. The couple would never meet again… at least, not in this life.

The Battle of Queenston Heights

After a brief ride, Isaac Brock discovered a small group of British infantrymen huddled at the foot of an escarpment known as Queenston Heights. The redcoats informed the Major-General that the long-awaited American invaders had finally arrived, and that several thousand Yankee soldiers were making their way across the Niagara River. Despite British resistance, the first wave of U.S. troops had captured a British artillery battery atop Queenston Heights.

Brock immediately sent word to Fort George for reinforcements. Rather than wait for the reinforcements to arrive, however, he decided to storm the strategically-important battery. Drawing his sabre, he led the charge uphill towards Queenston Heights.

During the ascent, Isaac Brock took an American musketball to the chest. The celebrated Hero of Canada died almost instantly. Despite the loss of their commander, the British eventually regained Queenston Heights and drove back the Americans.

Sobbing Sophia

A heartbroken Sophia Shaw spent her remaining years living with her sister in the home of Captain Powell, now known as the Brockamour Manor. She lived a reclusive existence, and never married.

Some say that, ever since her death, Sophia’s spirit has remained in her sister’s home, where she and her beloved Isaac had shared some of their happiest moments. She makes her presence known to guests by singing near the top of the stairs, opening and closing doors in the night, and appearing near her favourite armoire. One female guest who stayed in Sophia’s old room reported waking up in the middle of the night to see the spectre of a woman in 19th Century clothing standing at the foot of her bed, admonishing her with a disapproving glare.

Legend has it that on cold autumn mornings, you can hear Sophia weeping softly in the halls of Brockamour Manor, mourning her lost love. Another, more cheerful story has it that Sophia and Sir Isaac Brock were united in death. Every once in a while, guests report seeing a vision of a red-coated Army officer and a 19th Century lady strolling arm-in-arm through the rose gardens. Whatever the case, Brockamour Manor remains shrouded in the mystery and romance that surrounds Niagara-On-The-Lake, Canada’s most haunted town.

 

5. Olde Angel Inn

A ten minute walk from Brockamour Manor will bring you to another haunted hotel in Niagara-On-The-Lake, the Olde Angel Inn. There, you can rent out one of five rooms, the names of which bear testament to the establishment’s colourful history. The “General’s Quarters” and the “Governor’s Room” are spacious two-bedroom suites; the “Sweetheart’s Room” and “Captain’s Room” are cozy one-bedroom affairs; and the “Colonel’s Suite” boasts an antique “Irish Fertility Bed”, perfect for honeymooners.

This ancient establishment is perhaps the oldest operational hotel in Canada. Built in 1789, it was initially founded as the “Harmonious Coach House”. In 1793, after passing the Act Against Slavery (a law which made Upper Canada the first British colony to abolish slavery) the legislators celebrated the event that evening at the inn’s tavern. The same heavy oak beams that supported the tavern’s ceiling back in 1793 are still there today, scarred by scorch marks from American arsonists who burned most of the town to the ground during the War of 1812… but that’s a story for another time.

In addition to being the oldest hotel in the country, some say that the Olde Angel Inn is one of the most haunted hotels in Ontario. Indeed, some claim it is the most haunted roadhouse in the whole country. Like those of Brockamour Manor and the vintage Prince of Wales Hotel nearby, the ghost story surrounding the Olde Angel Inn has its origins in the War of 1812.

The Battle of Fort George

Following the death of Isaac Brock at the Battle of Queenston Heights, Canadian military forces lacked strong leadership. Holes in Canadian defenses allowed sixteen American ships to travel from the State of New York to the town York (present-day Toronto) on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. On April 27, 1813, 1,700 American Army regulars disembarked on the shores of York, captured the Canadian capital, and burned the town to the ground.

Following the Battle of York, American troops retreated by ship to Fort Niagara, a French-turned-American military fortification on the eastern shores of the Niagara Delta. Fort Niagara stood across the Niagara River from Fort George, Britain’s martial headquarters in Canada (situated at present-day Niagara-On-The-Lake). The American soldiers spent several weeks recovering at Fort Niagara before striking out again, this time at their Canadian neighbours across the river.

On May 25, 1813, American warships set anchor in the Niagara River off Fort George and barraged the British garrison with heated shot. After a two-day cannon bombardment, four thousand American soldiers disembarked on the shores of Lake Ontario and marched for Fort George. British infantrymen charged the Americans with their bayonets as they waded ashore. However, grapeshot fired by American ships drove them back.

American troops pushed onwards and succeeded in capturing Fort George- by this time, a smoking ruin on account of the heated shot they had pumped into it. They occupied the nearby town of Newark and built a new fortification in the ashes of the old fort.

The Ghost of Captain Swayze

Legend has it that during the Battle of Fort George, a Captain in the Canadian Militia named Colin Swayze delayed his retreat to rendezvous with his true love in the Harmonious Coach House in nearby Newark. Before the officer could steal away to join his regiment, American soldiers overran the inn. Panicking, Captain Swayze hid in a barrel in the cellar.

In an effort to root out British deserters, the American infantrymen stabbed burlap sacks, dark corners, and other potential hiding places with the bayonets attached to the ends of their muskets. One soldier threw the lid off the barrel in which Captain Swayze was hiding and plunged his bayonet into the lovesick officer. Colin Swayze quickly succumbed to his wound.

Some say that the ghost of Colin Swayze never left the cellar, and remains in the Olde Angel Inn to this very day. Guests staying in the “Colonel’s Room” report strange noises in the night. Inn staff sometimes open the dining room in the morning to find furniture mysteriously rearranged. One guest even claimed to have seen the face of the erstwhile captain in the mirror of the ladies’ washroom.

Although the Captain’s appearance may frighten some guests from time to time, local legend says that his spirit is harmless, and will remain so as long as the British flag flies over the Olde Angel Inn. To keep their resident spirit happy, the inn’s many managers have proudly displayed the Union Jack at the establishment’s front door, where it remains to this very day.

6. Fairmont Royal York

If you leave Niagara-On-The-Lake and drive an hour and a half along Queen Elizabeth Way, you’ll come to the city of Toronto. Not only is Toronto the capital of Ontario; it is also the largest city in Canada.

In the heart of this sprawling metropolis, not far from the CN Tower and the barn of the Toronto Maple Leafs, stands a 4 star luxury hotel: the Fairmont Royal York. This Canadian Pacific Railway hotel is among the most opulent of all the haunted hotels in Ontario.

The Royal York, equipped with its Royal Suite, is the hotel of choice for Queen Elizabeth II whenever the British Royal Family pays a visit to Toronto. It is also said to be preferred residence of a number of ghostly guests.

The Man in the Purple Jacket

Among the most famous of the spectral residents said to walk the halls of the Royal York is a grey-haired man in a purple smoking jacket. This phantasmal gentleman is purported to appear on the hotel’s eighth floor to unwitting patrons and staff before vanishing into thin air.

Legend has it that this spectre is the spirit of a wealthy man who stayed in the hotel on his honeymoon night. That night, the man murdered his new bride before committing suicide. Consequently, his spirit remained in the hotel, doomed to haunt the vicinity of his terrible crime.

The man’s murdered bride is said to also haunt the Royal York. Her spirit supposedly resides in the room in which she lost her life. She makes herself known to guests by opening and closing the bedroom door, and by appearing as a strange light in the middle of the night.

The Employee

Another ghost believed to haunt the Royal York Hotel is a former hotel employee who hanged himself from a stairwell railing on the 19th floor. It is said that guests who use the stairwell sometimes feel a malevolent presence in the area. Similarly, other stairwell users report experiencing the eerie sensation that they are being watched. And every once in a while, anguished screams are said to echo throughout the stairwell in the middle of the night. When hotel staff investigate these chilling shrieks, they find the stairwell empty.

The Children

The last group of ghosts supposed to haunt the Royal York are handful mysterious children. These youthful spirits run through the halls in the middle of the night, laughing as they go. When angry patrons step out into the hall to admonish the youngsters, the laughter stops abruptly, and the children are nowhere to be found.

 

7. Bayview Wildwood Resort

If you drive an hour and a half north from Toronto, through the city of Barrie, Ontario, and beyond Lake Simcoe, you’ll come to a wild country of forests and lakes known as Muskoka. Colloquially referred to as “cottage country”, this quiet backwoods is a popular destination for recreational fishermen, hikers, bikers, and anyone in need of respite from the big city.

Gravenhurst

Muskoka has always been a rugged and secluded territory. For many years, settlers avoided the area, as its hard clay soil was not conducive to agriculture. In the 1860’s, its mixed forests attracted the eyes of lumbermen, who established remote logging camps deep in the Muskoka wilderness. Lumberjacks transported the timbers they harvested down Lake Muskoka using steamboats. From a wharf on the lake’s southeastern shore, they carted their lumber to southerly sawmills by way of the Muskoka Colonization Road, a rough corduroy path. This crude carriage highway was upgraded to a railway in 1875.

Naturally, a settlement developed at the northern terminus of this thoroughfare, which connected the logging camps of Muskoka with timber-hungry municipalities of Barrie and Toronto. This transportation hub quickly flourished into the town of Gravenhurst, earning itself the nickname “The Gateway to Muskoka”.

The Resort

On the outskirts of Gravenhurst lies the small community of Severn Bridge, on the Severn River. Just outside Severn Bridge lies the even smaller village of Port Stanton. And just outside of Port Stanton, tucked away in a little cove on Sparrow Lake, is the Bayview Wildwood Resort and Hotel.

The Bayview Hotel is not really a single building, but rather a cluster of cabins and apartments. There are four main buildings- the Sparrowview House, the Walton House, the Lakeview House, and the Lakeshore House- which contain a number of large one-bedroom suites. Guests also have the option to stay in one of fifteen separate cottages of varying sizes. Last, but certainly not least, patrons have the option to stay in the historic main building, the resort’s oldest and most storied residence.

History

This tourist attraction was first established in 1884 by a prominent local steamboat captain named Thomas Stanton and his wife Ellen. For more than 130 years, the Stanton family has diligently maintained and expanded this charming lakeside getaway. Unlike many historic (and possibly haunted) hotels in Ontario, the Bayview Wildwood Resort is as well-kept and operational as the day it was founded.

The Ghosts of the Bayview Wildwood Resort

The main building of the Bayview Wildwood Resort is said to be home to a number of ghostly residents. Every once in a while, guests hear mysterious footsteps on the upper floor when nobody is up there. Doors are known to open and close all by themselves. Some staff member report having seen a pair of disembodied legs walking up the building’s main stairs, only to disappear at the top.

According to an article in the Shelburne Free Press, the ghosts that haunt this building include Webster, the spirit an Ojibwa caretaker who worked at the resort before his death; the ghost of an American patron who died of a heart attack while staying in the main building; and a phantom cat who jumps up on the beds of unsuspecting guests in the middle of the night.

 

8. Inn at the Falls

If you drive half an hour north of the Bayview Wildwood Resort, you’ll come to Bracebridge, the regional capital of Muskoka. This small town was built around a waterfall on the Muskoka River not far from the lake which shares its name. Nestled in a quiet cul-de-sac in the heart of this picturesque community is a Victorian-style mansion called the “Inn at the Falls”.

This impressive estate was first constructed by English stonemasons in the mid 1870’s, when Bracebridge was still a rough logging village. It was originally commissioned as the private residence of a man named John Adair. The house changed hands several times throughout the late 19th and early 20th Centuries before finally being converted into an inn in the 1930’s. Since 1988, it has been known as the “Inn at the Falls”.

The Three Official Ghosts

This charming establishment is perhaps the last place one might expect to see a ghost. Nevertheless, hotel management makes no secret about the Inn’s perpetual residents who make themselves known to patrons and staff from time to time.

The Inn at the Falls is “officially” haunted by three different spirits, whom hotel staff have fondly named Bob, Sarah, and Charlie. According to an old menu once distributed at the Inn’s Fox and the Hound Pub, “our three resident ghosts… are friendly spirits and tend to keep mostly to themselves…”

Bob

The ghost called Bob is said to haunt the Inn’s kitchen area. This mischievous spirit has never appeared to anyone, but he has displayed a penchant for hurling pots and pans across the kitchen, opening and slamming freezer doors, turning kitchen lights on and off, and generally pranking the kitchen staff.

Sometime in the 1990’s, the late Canadian writer Terry Boyle claimed to have watched an ashtray levitate, float past his face, and land beside him on another countertop in the Inn’s kitchen. A cook he was speaking with at the time assured the astonished writer that this was just Bob’s way of saying ‘hello’.

One time, an unruly patron complained to the hotel staff that someone had kicked him in the rear while he was descending the stairs. When he turned around to admonish the troublemaker, he found himself alone. The guest was none too pleased when staff member suggested, matter-of-factly, that Bob was probably the culprit.

Sarah

The ghost called Sarah is said to haunt the dining room at the Inn at the Falls, as well as the main hallway and the corridor leading to the pub. She typically announces her presence in the early morning. Sometimes, staff open up the dining room bright and early to find fresh candles burning, as if they had just been lit. On other occasions, they are greeted by a faint, sweet “hello”. Every once in a while, Sarah’s fragrance- a pleasant aroma of lavender and roses- lingers in the dining room several hours before breakfast.

Unlike Bob, Sarah sometimes reveals her presence by literally appearing to startled staff and guests. Usually, her apparition is only visible from the shoulders up. More rarely, her entire body materializes in vivid detail. Witnesses typically describe Sarah as a beautiful young woman with long brown hair, usually dressed in white.

Kevin Poole’s Encounter

In the early 1990’s, a respected Ontario businessman named Kevin Poole checked in to the Inn at the Falls. One night, while sipping a beer at the Inn’s Pub, the bartender told him about Sarah’s ghost. Poole scoffed at the story. Although he entertained the possibility of the paranormal, he doubted that a ghost could materialize as vividly as the bartender claimed Sarah sometimes did.

Not long afterwards, Poole left the hotel and walked over to his car. As he fiddled with his keys, a beautiful young woman with flowing brown hair in a long white gown brushed past him. Startled, the businessman made to follow her but found that she had vanished. Poole was certain that he had encountered Sarah, and that she had appeared to him in order to prove her existence.

Charlie

Charlie, the Inn’s third “official” ghost, is said to inhabit the corridor on the second floor. He has been known to slam the emergency exit door, and to pace the hallway on the second floor, loudly discussing business with another ghostly gentleman.

William C. Mahaffy

Many believe that “Charlie” might actually be the ghost of William Crosby Mahaffy, the estate’s second owner and first permanent resident. A young lawyer fresh out of law school, Mahaffy bought the estate off John Adair in 1877 (Adair had never actually occupied it). He moved in with his wife and three sons and opened up a law practice in town. He worked his way up the legal ladder until, in 1888, he was appointed Muskoka’s first District Judge. The Mahaffy family home subsequently became the hub of Bracebridge’s social and commercial activity.

In the summer of 1912, William Mahaffy travelled to London, England, to undergo a surgery. He died there on the operating table, and his family subsequently sold the Bracebridge estate.

The Judge’s Ghost

Although William C. Mahaffy gave up the ghost on the other side of the world, some say that his spirit returned to haunt his home. Over the years, several staff members of the Inn at the Falls have reported seeing the spectre of a gentleman in Victorian attire in the pub and in the parlour on the main floor. The phantom’s facial features allegedly corresponded with Judge Mahaffy’s, whose portrait once hung in the main hall. Every once in a while, phantom cigar smoke hangs heavily in the Inn’s parlour, where Mahaffy used to relax after a long day in the courtroom.

The ghost of Judge Mahaffy apparently has strong opinions on how things ought to be in his home. In the spring of 1998, for example, one of the hotel managers was about to turn off the lights in a small room beside the pub when a man’s voice barked “Don’t turn the lights out!” The manager was the only one in the Inn at the time. On another occasion, some mysterious force repeatedly repositioned the sofa and turned up the heat in the parlour when no one was looking. This performance continued until one of the mangers entered the room and shouted “that’s enough!”

The Spectral Lady of Room 105

It is said that the most haunted room in the Inn at the Falls is Room 105, the historic master bedroom on the second floor. This apartment is allegedly the domain of a ghostly woman whom some have conflated with Sarah.

The spectral lady of Room 105 is most often seen in an armchair, gazing out the window. Some claim to have seen her through the window while looking up at the Inn from the street. One hotel guest even walked in on her while she was lounging in her favourite chair. Instinctively, he apologized for his intrusion and backed into the hallway, only to realize that 105 was indeed where he was staying. When he went back inside, the woman was gone.

Some guests sleeping in Room 105 have claimed to have woken up in the middle of the night to see the lady glide across the room, settle into her chair, and vanish. Others have seen her smiling face in the reflection of the room’s television. Others still have noticed the imprint of her body on the bed, or have felt her gentle hand caress their back at night as if in an effort to help them sleep.

Creepy Cavorting

Like Bob, the woman from Room 105 seems to enjoy playing tricks on the living. She appears to have a predilection for hiding room keys and TV remotes, and sometimes plays with the lights and the shower. Oftentimes, people staying in Room 105 find that electronic equipment fails on them unexpectedly.

Room 105 is also said to undergo dramatic and unexplained temperature fluctuations. “You can feel a presence in here,” general manger Krista Havenaar said of the place, “and sometimes it gets so cold you can see your breath.”

The Lady of the Stairs

Another phantom said to haunt the second floor is the ghost of a pregnant woman, whom some have associated with Sarah and the spectral lady of Room 105. This ghost has been heard shuffling about the hallway near the staircase and weeping as if in distress. Sometimes, the voice of a man, whom some believe might be the spirit of her husband, can be heard comforting her.

Many of the hotel staff believe that the pregnant woman is the ghost of the wife of Edward Kirk, a businessman from Toronto who purchased the mansion in the 1930’s. Shortly after moving into the house, Kirk’s wife learned, to her delight, that she was pregnant.

One night, near the baby’s due date, Mrs. Kirk slipped from her bedroom and began wandering throughout the house, unable to sleep. Tragically, she tripped down the stairs, killing both herself and her unborn child in the process. Some say that her tormented spirit has haunted the Inn’s staircase ever since.

The Children

Every once in a while, guests staying at the Inn at the Falls report hearing the sound of children playing in the main hallway and the corridor on the second floor. Some have claimed to have heard the giggling of a little girl in Room 105. Others have reported being greeted by an invisible child in the pub. One time, the son of the front desk clerk returned from the hotel’s basement inquiring about the little girl he had met down there.

There have been few ideas put forth as to the identities of these shadowy children. Some have suggested that one of them- perhaps the little girl- might be the spirit of Mrs. Kirk’s unborn baby, enjoying an otherworldly childhood in the home she never lived to grow up in.

Jackie Niven

Another spirit said to haunt the Inn at the Falls is that of Jackie Niven, whose husband, Jim, bought the building in 1975. Jackie passed away in the house later that decade, succumbing to cancer. Some say her spirit never left.

One morning in the 1980’s, hotel employee Cathy Morrow claimed to have encountered Jackie’s ghost near the pub. “It was so vivid,” she said, “I could describe everything she was wearing. She had on blue jeans and a red and white striped shirt. She was a small woman with shoulder-length dark brown hair. [The woman] would have been in her 40s. I just looked at her an in seconds she vanished into thin air.” Cathy later told her tale to the housekeeper, who had worked in the building for many years. “You have just described Jackie Niven,” the housekeeper informed her.

The Inn at the Falls seems to be a hotspot for paranormal activity. Perhaps, as Canadian writer Andrew Hind suggested, this is because the Inn is built on the site of an old Ojibwa burial ground. Maybe certain tragic events, like Mrs. Kirk’s untimely death, have anchored spirits into the stone walls of the establishment. Or perhaps the Inn is simply so lovely that its former occupants can’t bear to part with it. Whatever the case, the Inn at the Falls is considered by many to be one of the most haunted places in Muskoka.

 

9. Windermere House

Half an hour north of Bracebridge, on the eastern shores of Lake Rosseau, lies the tiny community of Windermere, Ontario. This backcountry settlement is dominated by a magnificent historic hotel called Windermere House.

The Story of Windermere House

Like most of our haunted hotels of Ontario, the Windermere House has a rich and colourful history.

Thomas Aitken

Back in 1860, a 28-year-old Scotsman named Thomas Aitken left the Shetland Isles for the New World. The previous year, his beloved wife and first child both died in childbirth. Hoping to start fresh, the heartbroken Shetlander boarded a steamer for Canada.

A series of odd jobs drew Aitken northwest to the Ontario frontier. After securing a land grant from the Canadian government, he built a homestead on the shores of the Rosseau River and carved out a living for himself from the wilderness. Eventually, Aitken remarried and started a family.

In the early 1870’s, enterprising businessmen introduced steamships to the lakes of Muskoka Country. This development opened up the region to a whole new type of industry: ecotourism. Soon, the rough lumberjacks who plied their trade in the Muskoka forests found themselves rubbing shoulders with wealthy European sportsmen.

The gentleman hunters and fishermen who flocked to Muskoka required lodging. Out of courtesy, many homesteaders invited these wealthy European visitors to share their cottages. Sensing an opportunity to make a little money, Thomas Aitken built several additions to his own cabin and rented rooms out to outdoor adventurers. And thus, the Windermere House was born.

Expansion

Over the years, demand for accommodation in the Windermere area grew. The Windermere House expanded accordingly. After the railway was built connecting Gravehurst with the cities down south, the Muskoka tourism industry exploded. So did business at the Windermere House. To keep up with the increasing demand for quality service and comfortable surroundings, the Windermere House gradually evolved into an elegant 56-room Victorian boarding house- one of Muskoka’s great steamship hotels, complete with a tennis court, a croquet field, and a lawn bowling green.

The Fire

In February 1996, during the filming of The Long Kiss Goodnight (a Hollywood movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and Geena Davis), the Windermere House caught fire and burned to the ground. Undaunted, the owners of the property rebuilt the historic hotel in exactly the same style as the original. Square-headed nails from the original

building were hammered back into the structure. In addition, a piece of timber salvaged from the sunroom was worked into a time capsule, and intended to be opened in 2096, a century after the construction of the new Windermere House.

The Ghosts of the Windermere House

Legend has it that the Windermere House is haunted by the ghost of its founder, Thomas Aitken. Phantom footsteps, strange whispers, mysterious knocks on the door, and inanimate objects moving as if on their own accord have all been attributed to Aitken’s spirit.

Another phantom said to haunt the Windermere House is the ghost of a mysterious little girl. Every once in a while, patrons awake in the middle of the night to find a little girl standing beside their beds. Before they can rub their eyes to ensure that they’re not dreaming, the little girl disappears.

 

10. Albion Hotel

The last stop on our tour of haunted hotels in Ontario is somewhat off the beaten path. On the southeastern shores of Lake Huron lies the municipality of Bluewater, an amalgamation of five small rural communities. One of these is the village of Bayfield.

Bayfield, Ontario, is home to several historic inns. The most famous is the Little Inn, a classy brick stagecoach stop that has welcomed guest since the mid 1800’s. Another is the Albion Hotel, a Georgian-style colonial roadhouse built in the early 1840’s. According to a legend born from first-hand accounts of hotel patrons and staff, this heritage building might just be haunted.

Note: The Albion Hotel in Bayfield, Ontario, is not to be confused with the restaurant of the same name in Guelph, Ontario- a former hotel associated with a great ghost story involving American gangster Al Capone and Sleeman beer.

The Shooting of Harvey Elliott

On November 8, 1897, the Albion Hotel in Bayfield, Ontario, was the site of a murder.

At that time, the hotel was owned by the Elliott family- a local clan which some said was cursed. Maria, the family’s matriarch, had raised five boys and two girls. By 1895, three of her sons were dead and buried. In 1896, her husband, Edward, passed away as well. In 1897, the only men remaining in Maria’s life were her sons Fred and Harvey, who helped her run the Albion Hotel along with her two daughters.

On that fateful evening, after closing up the hotel bar for the evening, Fred and Harvey got into a heated argument

on the verandah. 23-year-old Harvey was roaring drunk, and was beginning to bet belligerent. He started swearing at 19-year-old Fred, and would have struck him in the face had a friend not restrained him.

“Keep him away from me,” warned Fred, drawing his revolver, “or I’ll shoot him.”

Suddenly, Harvey broke from his restraints and lunged at his brother. Fred raised his gun and shot Harvey point blank in the throat. The elder Elliott brother crumpled to the floor.

With tears in his eyes, Fred dropped his gun and helped his big brother inside, but it was too late; Harvey Elliott died at the bar of the Albion Hotel, his blood staining the unvarnished wooden floor.

The Ghosts of Albion Hotel

Fred Elliott was tried for the murder of his brother. Ultimately, he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years of hard labour in the Kingston Penitentiary. He was released early on account of poor health, and died on September 13, 1905, at the age of 28.

The Ghost of Harvey Elliott

As for Harvey Elliott, however, it is said that his spirit remains at the Albion Hotel to this very day. Harvey’s favourite haunt appears to be the hotel bar. Every once in a while, the bar light will turn on after the hotel has closed for the night. Beer taps sometimes mysteriously turn on by themselves, and glasses are thrown off the bar rack by unseen hands. Death, it seems, has not quelled Elliott’s appetite for hooch. Alternatively, perhaps Harvey simply makes his presence known at the site at which he spent his last living moments. Whatever the case, the ghost of Harvey Elliott is as much a fixture of the Albion Hotel as the bar in which he resides- a permanent resident whom hotel staff fondly refers to as their “rent free guest”.

The Farmer’s Wife

The Albion Hotel is also said to be haunted by the ghost of a farmer’s wife who once lived in what is now the hotel’s common room. She has been known to caress guests’ faces in the night, change the channel on TV, and to call out for her husband John.

One New Years’ Eve, Mike Parkinson, the hotel chef, noticed a husky, long-haired brunette woman sitting on the staircase of the Albion Hotel. In the blink of an eye, the woman disappeared into thin air. Is it possible that Parkinson had a run-in with the ghost of the farmer’s wife?

Molly

A third ghost, whom hotel staff refer to as Molly, is believed to haunt the office adjacent to the common room. Molly apparently has a penchant for opening and closing doors, and for pulling books off bookshelves.

Room 4

If you’re looking to have a ghostly experience in the Albion Hotel, management suggests that you book Room 4. A couple staying in this room reportedly heard guitar music on the main floor. When they inquired as to the identity of the musician the following morning, staff members informed them that there had been no one else in the building at the time.

One guest staying in Room 4 reported hearing disembodied footsteps in the hallway outside. Another claimed that, at one point in the night, her bed began to shake.

 

Tell Us Your Stories!

And that’s the end of our tour of 10 Haunted Hotels in Ontario. If you’re brave enough to visit one of these spooky places and happen to have a ghostly experience of your own, we’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to share your own ghost stories with us in the Comments section below.

 

Sources

1. Chateau Laurier

2. Ottawa Jail Hostel

  • Haunted Ontario: Ghostly Inns, Hotels, and Other Eerie Places (1998), by Terry Boyle
  • Creepy Capital (2016), by Mark Leslie
  • Season 1, Episode 1 of the TV series Creepy Canada

3. Hochelaga Inn

4. Brockamour Manor

5. Olde Angel Inn

6. Fairmont Royal York

7. Bayview Wildwood Resort

8. Windermere House

9. Inn at the Falls

10. Albion Hotel

 

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Ghostly Tales of the Scenic Caves Nature Preserve

Ghostly Tales of the Scenic Caves Nature Preserve

Many consider Ontario to be one of Canada’s most haunted provinces, and with good reason. The so-called “Province of Opportunity”, nestled in the heart of the Canadian Shield, has seen more violent death than just about any other region in the country.

The forests of pine, birch, and aspen that surround the Great Lakes have borne witness to centuries of bloody massacres and bitter battles. Iroquois warriors were wiping out rival tribes when New France was but a fantasy in the mind of Samuel de Champlain. Jesuit missionaries were tortured to death on the shores of Georgian Bay. Indian braves and European soldiers fell to the muskets, tomahawks, and war clubs of their enemies throughout the endless intercolonial wars that characterized the 17th and 18th Centuries. Lake Ontario resounded to the thunder of cannons during the Seven Years’ War, and the Niagara River ran red with the blood during the War of 1812.

That the odd soul might linger in this blood-soaked land, keeping vigil over its earthly remains, ought to be no surprise to believers in the supernatural.

The Scenic Caves Nature Preserve

One of Ontario’s many ghost stories takes place near Collingwood, a sleepy old town at the southern end of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay.

If you drive ten minutes west of Collingwood into the Blue Mountains, you’ll come to the Scenic Caves Nature Preserve. This beautiful natural area is dominated by towering cliffs, gloomy caves, and dark fissures that snake away into the rock. Centuries ago, the Petun Indians avoided this place, especially after dark, believing it to be haunted by ghosts and spirits.

One particular formation at Scenic Caves stands in conspicuous prominence. This rugged, 16-metre-tall limestone spire juts out from the rocky floor at the base of a cliff, forming a narrow gateway into an area which the Petun referred to as the “Village of the Dead”. Today, this geological anomaly has several different names, including “Standing Rock”, “Sacred Rock”, and “Worshipping Rock”. To the Petun Indians, however, it was “Ekarenniondi”- literally “Where the Rock Stands Out”.

Ekarenniondi

The first white man to write about Petun beliefs regarding Ekarenniondi was Father Jean de Brebeuf, a French Jesuit missionary, Christian martyr, and Catholic saint who lived among the Huron in the early 1600’s. In his book Relation of what occurred in the Country of the Hurons in the year 1636, Brebeuf wrote a chapter on “The Ideas of the Huron Regarding the Nature of the Soul, both in this Life and after Death”. Brebeuf claimed that the Petun regarded Ekarenniondi as sacred. This rock, the Indians believed, served as the gateway to the Village of the Dead, to which Petun souls travelled in the afterlife.

Ekarenniondi was also the home of Oscotarach, the “Head Piercer”. This semi-divine entity, usually thought of as an ancient withered man, bored holes into the skulls of the dead who wished to enter the Village and sucked out their brains so that they would have no memory of the earthly life they left behind.

Oscotarach was not the only otherworldly entity to inhabit this damp, fern-shrouded vale in the Blue Mountains. Indian legend has it that a large bowl-like depression near Ekarenniondi once housed the nest of another semi-supernatural entity, a great blue Thunderbird.

Collingwood’s Romeo and Juliet

In addition to the Thunderbird, the Head Piercer, and the Village of the Dead, the Scenic Caves Nature Reserve is the site of yet another spooky Petun legend.

The Erie Chief

Sometime before the arrival of French explorers, so the story goes, a young Erie Indian chief travelled from his homeland on the southern shores of Lake Erie to Nottawasaga Bay, a sub-section of Georgian Bay on which present-day Collingwood is situated. He hoped to broker an alliance between his people and the Petun tribe.

At that time, the Erie were at war with the Iroquois Confederacy, a powerful alliance from the forests beyond the St. Lawrence River. The Erie chief knew that his people required allies if they hoped to hold their own against the invaders from the south. He showered his Petun counterparts with gifts, but to no avail; the Petun firmly refused to ally themselves with the Erie. The chiefs from Nottawasaga Bay knew of the Iroquois Confederacy’s warlike reputation and had no desire to be dragged into a war they could not win.

Star-Crossed Lovers

During the course of the negotiations, the Erie chief fell in love with Leuantido, a beautiful daughter of a prominent Petun chief. When the visiting chief asked the girl’s father for Leuantido’s hand, the Petun leader refused him for the same reason he turned down his offer of alliance.

In spite of her father’s rejection, the Erie chief continued to meet Leuantido in secret. The couple often conducted their trysts in the sacred caves near Ekarenniondi, where few Petun dared to venture.

The Incident

Eventually, Leuantido’s brothers found out about the illicit love affair. Enraged, they ambushed the Erie chief while he was on his way to another rendezvous with their sister. One of the Petun braves buried a tomahawk into the young chief’s skull atop the cliffs overlooking Ekarenniondi. A horrified Leuantido arrived just in time to see her brothers pitch her paramour’s lifeless body off the cliff.

The incident had a terrible effect on Leuantido’s mental state. The young woman grew increasingly despondent. One night, while weeping at the site of the young chief’s murder, she leapt off the cliff to her death. Her brothers found her shattered corpse the following morning, wrapped in her lover’s embrace.

Theories

In the late 1640’s, the Petun were attacked by the Iroquois Confederacy and driven from Geogian Bay area. Survivors of the Iroquois raids fled south, where they banded with other Huron refugees to form the Wyandot Nation. Several years later, the Iroquois Confederacy similarly invaded Erie territory and wiped out the Erie Nation.

If the Petun and Erie had joined forces, perhaps they may have withstood the Iroquois offensives. Perhaps, some say, the tale of Leuantido and her lover was invented in the aftermath of the defeat of these two First Nations, serving as a parable illustrating the dangers of refusing to stand together against a powerful and aggressive enemy.

The Ghosts of the Scenic Caves Nature Preserve

As compelling as this theory may be, it conflicts with another tale surrounding the Scenic Caves Nature Preserve. Legend has it that the ill-fated romance of Leuantido and the Erie chief is based on a real event, and that Ekarenniondi is haunted by the ghosts of two star-crossed Indian lovers, united in death. Some say that faint, mournful cries occasionally issue from the base of the cliff. Others claim that the dim figure of two lovers, arm in arm, sometimes appears near Ekarenniondi, only to vanish when approached.

Shera and Bruce’s Encounter

According to an article in a 2005 issue of the magazine Mysteries, two friends named Shera and Bruce may have encountered the ghostly couple during a visit to the Scenic Caves Nature Preserve one misty fall day sometime in the late 1970’s. According to Shera:

“My friend and I were separated. We were… exploring the area, taking photos. As I walked around the rocks, there was suddenly a really intense feeling, one that I’ve only had a few times in my life. It’s that voice in your head that says ‘get the heck out of here’.”

The Woman

Heeding her instincts, Shera looked about for Bruce. With a thrill of panic, she realized that her companion was nowhere in sight. She hastily fled the area, whereupon she found Bruce sitting on a boulder, pale and shivering.

When he found his voice, Bruce explained that he had seen a brilliantly-coloured leaf floating in a puddle of rainwater and crouched down to take a photo of it. Suddenly, he noticed the image of a beautiful Indian woman shimmering on the water’s surface. It was a reflection; the woman was behind him, standing over him. Bruce even felt the woman’s long black hair brush against his ear.

Startled, he turned around, only to find that he was alone. Yet the feeling of the hair brushing against his ear remained. When Bruce tried to brush the phantom hair away, a large maggot fell to the ground.

Conclusion

Today, the Scenic Caves Nature Preserve closes before sunset. If the Head Piercer or the spectral inhabitants of the Village of the Dead come out at night to perform their ghostly errands, they do so in privacy. Perhaps, as Canadian writers Andrew Hind and Maria da Silva put it, “the park closes at dusk to provide Leuantido and her beloved the intimacy the craved but were cruelly denied in life.”

Sources

  • “Ontario, Canada’s Haunted Cliff of Ekarenniondi”, by Andrew Hind and Maria da Silva, in Vol. 3, No. 4, Issue 11 of the magazine Mysteries (2005), courtesy of American Fortean researcher Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra
  • “Mysteries of Ekarenniondi, ‘The Rock that Stands Out’”, by Ken Haigh in the Summer 2011 issue of the magazine Niagara Escarpment Views
  • “Ekarenniondi and Oscotarach” by Charles Garrad, in the July 1998 of the Petun Research Institute Bulletin.
  • Mysteries of Ontario (1999), John Robert Colombo

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The Dream that Solved a Murder

The Dream that Solved a Murder

Canadian frontier lore is littered with strange tales of clairvoyance. In these stories, certain gifted people supposedly become aware of distant events through visions or dreams. More often than not, the gifted characters in these stories are of aboriginal (often Dene) descent.

One such tale to come out of Grande Prairie Country in Northwest Alberta, for example, tells of a strange dream had by a Beaver Indian woman in the summer of 1945. In her dream, the ghost of her dead husband led her to the bodies of two fellow tribesmen who drowned in the Wapiti River about a month earlier. Accompanied by the widow of one of the dead men, the woman used the instructions from her dream to locate the bodies, which were then given a proper burial.

Other tales of clairvoyance on the Canadian frontier involve Indian medicine men. For example, in two different stories from Northern Canada, native shamans made accurate predictions regarding the fate of ships which had not arrived on schedule. One of these events took place in Southeastern Yukon in the spring of 1908, while the other occurred in Churchill, Manitoba, sometime in the early ‘40’s.

Interestingly, one of the most dramatic tales of ‘Second Sight’ (as the gift of clairvoyance is sometimes called) in Canada was not experienced by a native, nor did it take place in the Great White North itself. This story involved an Englishman named George Hayward, who had an amazing extrasensory experience somewhere in Great Britain involving his brother in Canada, more than 4,000 miles away.

George Hayward’s Dream

On the witching hour of September 18, 1904, George Hayward woke up in his English home in a cold sweat. With fumbling fingers, he lit up a candle, produced a paper and pencil, and wrote down the details of the disturbing nightmare from which he had awakened. He made sure to record as much of the dream as he could remember, down to the grisly minutia; something deep inside him told him that this was important.

The dream had been stunningly vivid. Some mysterious force had dragged him from a hazy reverie into a wild world of raging rivers and gloomy pine forests. The air was fragrant with the smell of pine resin, the tang of tanned buckskins, and the smoke of a proximate campfire. Nearby stood a cluster of Indian teepees. Their smoke-stained tops, bristling with lodge poles, cast black silhouettes against the evening sky.

Suddenly, two white men rode past the Indian village and stopped by the side of a slough. They tethered their horses to a nearby tree and rolled out their woolen blankets. In the light of the moon, George saw that one of the partners- a tall man with a black beard- was his brother, Edward.

As the two men set up camp, an Indian woman carrying a woven basket made her way towards them. Just as she prepared to announce her presence, the two white men began to argue. Frightened, the woman slipped back into the darkness. No sooner had she left than the argument quickly escalated into a ferocious quarrel. Eventually, the shorter of the two men seized a rifle and shot Edward dead.

George watched in horror as the murderer built a bonfire, heaved his brother’s body onto the pyre, and threw some of the dead man’s belongings into the slough.

Staff Sergeant Anderson

Several days later, in the wilds of Northwestern Canada half a world away from George Hayward and his English bed, Staff Sergeant Kristjan Fjelsted Anderson of the Royal North West Mounted Police headed out on patrol.

Staff Sergeant Anderson was a large, friendly, rugged-looking Icelander. He had ice-blue eyes, a thick brown mustache, and the stubborn tenacity of a Norseman. In Lesser Slave Lake Country, in North-Central Alberta, he was the law, and as Hollywood Northwesterns fondly said of his breed, he “always got his man”.

That morning, Anderson headed towards the Sucker Creek Indian Reserve on the shores of Lesser Slave Lake. Back in 1899, he had played a role in the signing of Treaty 8- an agreement between the British Crown and the local natives which led to the establishment of this Reserve.

While guiding his horse down the winding trail to the Cree settlement, perhaps reflecting on the great changes that had taken place in the region since the signing of the Treaty, Anderson was approached by Mistoos, the chief of the Sucker Creek First Nation. In a hushed voice, Mistoos told the Mountie a tale of mystery and intrigue.

Mistoos’ Tale

Several days earlier, the chief said, two white prospectors had camped beside the Reserve. One of them was a tall, black-bearded man whom Mistoos maintained was a “Shagonash”, or “Englishman”. His shorter partner, who walked with a slight limp, was called Charlie.

Two days after their arrival, Charlie rode off with all the horses. His black-bearded partner was nowhere to be seen. Curiously, the two men had made an enormous bonfire the night of the Shagonash’s disappearance- a strange thing to do, as the night was quite pleasant. This peculiarity became ominous when Mistoos’ cattle, bawling anxiously, pawed the ashes of this bonfire as though they scented blood.

Anderson thanked the Indian for the information and continued on his patrol. Early the following morning, he rode into the Sucker Creek Reserve and entered Mistoos’ teepee, determined to get to the bottom of this little mystery. The chief greeted him and introduced him to two boys named Napasise and Moonais, who had paid a visit to the white men several days earlier.

“The white men gave us things to eat,” one of the boys told Anderson. Grinning, the young Crees described how the Shagonash had sewed leather over the stock of his gun, as if he thought it might make it shoot straighter. He did this with a strange implement- a fingerless leather glove with a big needle fitted into the palm.

The Englishman also wore a big shining buckle on his belt, and was followed everywhere by a yellow dog who seemed to love his master. The morning after the Englishman disappeared, Charlie had to physically drag the dog away from the campsite; for some reason, it did not want to leave.

The Campsite

After interviewing the boys, Anderson followed Mistoos to the site of the prospectors’ camp.

“Plenty ashes, eh?” the chief said, gesturing towards the remains of the white men’s campfire. Indeed, the prospectors had built a tremendous fire for such a mild night.

Anderson got on his knees and sifted through the ashes with his hands. He quickly unearthed several charred fragments of bone. ‘They might be from a moose,’ the Mountie thought to himself. ‘You can’t believe all the talk you hear amongst the teepees.’ Nevertheless, he slipped the bones into the pocket of his red serge, determined to have them examined by a Force physician.

Not far from the campfire was a slough, from which the white men had evidently got their water. On a hunch, Anderson slipped off his boots, rolled up his yellow-striped breeches, and waded into the swamp barefoot, feeling the soggy bottom with his toes for anything out of the ordinary. In no time, Mistoos assisted the Mountie by dragging the slough with a rake. Soon, the chief fished out a battered kettle.

“Dat’s it!” exclaimed one of the young Cree boys, who had come to watch the men search. “Dat’s de kettle de white men used.”

That accomplished, Anderson made one last scan of the campsite. This time, he noticed a pair of slender moccasin prints, only a few days old, leading from the teepees to the camp and back again. ‘Perhaps,’ the Staff Sergeant mused, ‘the Indians knew more about the disappearance of the Shagonash than they were prepared to tell.’

Charlie King

Just as he was about to leave, some instinct caused the Scandinavian to glance up at the forest wall. For a moment, he caught a glimpse of sinewy fingers resting on a tree branch and a pair of dark eyes peering at him from out of the shadows. In a heartbeat, Anderson’s mysterious observer vanished noiselessly into the brush. The Mountie shrugged his shoulders and trudged back to the Reserve, where he had left his horse.

Before leaving the Reserve, Anderson decided to pay a visit to Moise Gladu, a French-Cree Metis hunter who lived in a nearby cabin. While the Metis set about preparing a pot of tea, the Icelander made a quick inventory of his home. The place was filled with fox traps and a single clunky bear trap.

“Figure on going trapping?” the Mountie asked.

“Non, Monsieur,” the Metis replied. “Dem traps, dey belong to Charlie King. He’s come from Edmonton. Now he’s figure on going back by de steamer and wants for sell dem.”

No sooner had Gladu spoken than a pleasant-faced man with a trail-worn Stetson limped into the cabin. “Howdy,” the stranger said to the Mountie, touching the brim of his hat. “Charlie King, at your service.”

Anderson informed King that he was investigating the disappearance of his partner and asked him if he could shed some light on the situation. In a friendly, matter-of-fact tone, the prospector described his trip from Edmonton. After that, he related how he had met a stranger, who called himself Leaman, in the nearby sandhills. They camped together beside the Reserve. Several days later, Leaman set out on foot for Sturgeon Lake to the southwest, hoping to do some prospecting there. The man had asked King to take care of his horses for him while he was away.

The Arrest

Anderson thanked King for the information and returned to the Mounted Police barracks at Buffalo Bay, a body of water northwest of Lesser Slave Lake. There, he told his subordinate about his brush with Charlie King, and of the prospector’s account of his partner’s disappearance. “Better saddle up,” he told the Constable, “and leave for Sturgeon Lake. Search every Indian stopping-place and speak to everyone you meet on the trail. Report back here as quick as you can.”

The young Mountie did as ordered. A week later, he returned to the barracks, dust-stained and travel-weary. He informed Anderson that, although he had interviewed every living soul on the trail to Sturgeon Lake, no one had seen a man matching the description of the missing prospector.

That did it. Through the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost at the southeastern end of Lesser Slave Lake, Anderson secured a warrant for Charlie King’s arrest. He found the prospector waiting with his luggage on the shores of the great lake, about to embark on the S.S. Midnight Sun. Had the steamer arrived before Anderson, King would have made his way down the Lesser Slave and Athabasca Rivers to Athabasca Landing. Instead, Anderson hauled him to the nearby RNWMP jail, much to the outrage of local trappers, who were sure of King’s innocence.

Ignoring King’s own protestations, Anderson tracked down the prospector’s belongings. Soon, the barracks’ shed was piled with 40 fox traps, a huge bear trap, and a number of pack saddles. The stables, on the other hand, housed four of King’s horses, each of them bearing a Diamond C brand.

Evidence

Following the arrest, Anderson returned to the Sucker Creek Reserve and began sifting through the ashes of the white men’s campfire with a window screen. Soon, he uncovered more shards of charred bone, a waistcoat buckle, and a broken half of a large needle.

The local Cree, in the meantime, dragged the slough. In no time, they produced a pair of soggy boots. Inside one of the boots was a bundle containing a tie pin surmounted by a gold nugget, a pocket watch with a broken chain, and a round sovereign case- a sterling silver wallet designed to carry British sovereign coins. Also in the bundle was an empty cartridge shell- perhaps evidence of a murder.

Amongst some of the muck brought up from the bog, Anderson spied something glinting in the sun. This proved to be a thin piece of broken steel. The Mountie placed this artifact beside the needle recovered from the ashes, and saw that they fit together perfectly. This discovery linked the items from the slough with the bones from the fire.

Anderson had a hunch that additional clues lay at the bottom of the swamp. Using his own money, he hired the local Cree to drain the mire and dredge it thoroughly. After a few days, the operation was complete. In addition to the boots and the soggy bundle they contained, the slough yielded one last significant artifact- a large square of tarnished silver. A local Metis named Cashir Cardinal recognized this item as the buckle from the belt of the missing Shagonash.

Clues

While Kristjan Anderson searched for evidence in the campsite beside the Sucker Creek Reserve, Constable Lowe transported Charlie King to Edmonton. There, he delivered the murder suspect into the hands of Inspector D’Arcy Strickland, a big beefy Mountie with a jovial disposition. Strickland, in turn, had King transferred to the Royal North West Mounted Police jail at nearby Fort Saskatchewan, to the northeast.

That accomplished, Lowe searched Edmonton for clues of King’s movements prior to his trip north. Finally, in a saddler’s shop on Kinistino Avenue (now 96th Street), he found a man mending a pair of harness straps with a curious device- a fingerless leather glove with a needle fitted into the palm.

“What’s that thing?” the Mountie asked the saddler casually, recalling the implement with which King’s partner sewed leather onto his gunstock, according to the Cree boys.

Grinning, the tradesman explained that the device was called a ‘sewing palm’, and that he learned to use when he worked as a sailor. In those days, he used it to mend canvas sails.

“Sell many of them?” Lowe asked.

“No!” the saddler replied. “Last one I sold was in August to some guy going up Peace River way. He stuck around a couple of days sewing canvas panniers for his pack-horses.”

Convinced that he had finally picked up his quarry’s trail, Constable Lowe then paid a visit to the local Brands Inspector. The Inspector informed him that no ‘Diamond C’ brand was registered in either Saskatchewan or Alberta. ‘In that case,’ the Mountie thought disappointedly, ‘King’s horses must have come across the United States border.’

More Clues

Following that setback, Lowe visited the local Hudson’s Bay Company retail store- a sad relic of a bygone era in which the HBC’s Fort Edmonton served as the capital of Canada’s Wild West. There, a grizzled trader recalled selling a huge bear trap- the same clumsy piece of metal from Moise Gladu’s shack- to a black-bearded Englishman the previous summer.

“Ah, here we are!” the trader said, pointing his finger at a line in the store blotter. “August 14th, Edward Hayward- 10 yards of canvas; 40 fox traps; a list of grub; and one bear trap! He paid by cheque. In fact, I think I’ve got his cheque right here.”

After rummaging around for a bit, trader produced a cancelled cheque for $200.00, issued by the Bank of Montreal in Nelson, BC. The cheque was signed “Edward Hayward”.

Constable Lowe removed his campaign hat to scratch his head. Didn’t Charlie King say that his partner’s name was Leaman?

The Victim

Lowe found what he believed might be the answer to this question at the Edmonton Hotel. There, on the August 14th register, were two names, one below the other: Charles King and Edward Hayward. Donald Ross, the hotel manager, informed him that the men’s trunks were stored in the basement.

Using Charlie King’s keys, which the Mounties had taken from the suspect before jailing him, Constable Lowe opened the trunk marked “C.K.”, only to find some old clothes, a few letters from Salt Lake City, Utah, and a railroad ticket from Fort Macleod to Edmonton inside.

Interestingly, another key on King’s keychain unlocked the second trunk, belonging to one ‘Edward Hayward’. Inside were some papers indicating that Hayward had worked as a sailor, a letter from Edward’s brother George, and a receipt for a railway ticket from Calgary to Edmonton with the same date as King’s ticket stub.

Constable Lowe reported his findings to Inspector D’Arcy Strickland. Strickland, in turn, sent a letter to Edward’s brother George, in England, inquiring as to whether he had information regarding his brother’s whereabouts.

Luck seemed to be with the Mounties when a livery man, through the Brands Inspector in Edmonton, informed Constable Lowe that he had sold four horses with a ‘Diamond C’ brand to an Englishman named Hayward the previous August. This success was tempered by a report from Salt Lake City that Charlie King, the murder suspect, was a hard-working farmer without a stain to his character.

Confirmation

Constable Lowe returned to Lesser Slave Lake and reported his findings to Staff Sergeant Anderson. The Icelander immediately struck out south for Nelson, British Columbia, from which Edward Hayward’s cheque had originated. Posing as a lumberjack, he tracked down members of a logging crew on which Hayward had worked. The mackinaw-clad woodcutters remembered that Hayward had worn a gold nugget tiepin and a silver belt buckle, and carried around a sovereign case- a peculiarity in that part of the country. It was looking as if the items recovered from the slough indeed belonged to this Edward Hayward.

George Hayward

Back in Edmonton, an English sailor walked into the office of Inspector D’Arcy Strickland. The man introduced himself as George Hayward, the brother of the missing man.

“Would you mind if I smoked?” the sailor asked, pulling a pipe from his coat pocket. “I find, sir, that a pull at the weed sort of refreshes my memory, and I’ve a bit of a yarn I want to spin.”

After receiving permission, George Hayward lit up his pipe, took a deep drag, and exhaled slowly. After a long pause, he asked, “Do you believe in dreams, sir?”

“Hardly,” the big Mountie chuckled, “but go ahead.”

The Englishman proceeded to tell Inspector Strickland of the strange nightmare he had the previous September, in which his brother, Edward, had been murdered by his partner. Amazingly, the details of this dream were stunningly congruent with the finds made at the crime scene, of which Hayward ought to have had no knowledge.

Even more incredible was the piece of paper which Hayward withdrew from his pocket. This document was a clipping from an English newspaper which seemed to corroborate the Englishman’s story. The day after his strange dream, Hayward related his experience to his friends at his favourite tavern, and the story ended up making its way into the local paper. As it turned out, George Hayward had dreamed his extraordinary dream on the exact night that his brother disappeared.

The Accused

“Amazing!” Inspector Strickland exclaimed once Hayward finished his incredible tale. “How would you like to take a run out to Fort Saskatchewan penitentiary and see if you can identify the subject of your dream?”

Two hours later, George Hayward found himself standing beside Inspector Strickland in the Fort Saskatchewan prison watching inmates shuffle past in file. Suddenly, he grabbed the Mountie’s arm. “That’s him!” he whispered trembling. “The same man I saw kill Ed in my dream!” The man Hayward indicated was none other than Charlie King.

The Trial

That September, Charles King stood trial for the murder of Edward Hayward. Staff Sergeant Kristjan Anderson, who served as the Crown Prosecutor, used evidence from 80 witnesses to build a strong case the King was guilty of the crime of which he was accused. These witnesses hailed from all over the continent, from the forests of British Columbia, to the mountains of Alaska, to the plains of Utah, to the wilds of Northern Alberta. Last, but not least, there was George Hayward from England. Considered as a whole, the testimonies of these witnesses painted a clear picture regarding the fate of Edward Hayward.

On August 14, 1904, Hayward and King met in the Edmonton Hotel and partnered up. As King was broke, Hayword purchased their outfit, including a number of animal traps, a sewing palm, and four horses bearing a ‘Diamond C’ brand. They travelled north to Lesser Slave Lake, where King murdered his English partner. In order to destroy evidence of his crime, King threw some of Hayward’s belongings into a nearby marsh and burnt Hayward’s corpse to cinders. Indeed, the bone fragments recovered from the ashes near the Sucker Creek Reserve had proved to be human.

Although Anderson had put together a strong case, there was one variable that had not been accounted for: King’s motive. To address this, the Icelander called one final witness to the stand: a demure, soft-spoken Cree woman. With a shawl covering her head and her eyes downcast, this women told her story.

The Last Witness

This woman lived on the Sucker Creek Reserve. On the night of Hayward’s disappearance, she headed over to the white men’s camp to peddle some moccasins she had sewn. As she approached the camp, King and Hayward began to quarrel furiously. Frightened, she slipped back into the bush. As she ran back to the Reserve, a gun exploded behind her and the quarrelling suddenly stopped.

The woman, who was highly superstitious, feared that she might be held responsible in some way for the killing. Accordingly, she neglected to come forward with her information when Staff Sergeant Anderson visited the Reserve. For a long time, the only soul with whom she shared her information was her brother. It was he who had watched Sergeant Anderson from the cover of the willows while the Mountie looked for clues at the scene of the crime.

The Verdict

The evidence against King was enough for the jury, who found him guilty of the murder of Edward Hayward and sentenced him to death. On September 30, 1905, Charles King was hanged on the gallows at Fort Saskatchewan.

Source

  • “The Dream that Solved a Murder”, by Philip H. Godsell, in the April 1960 issue of the magazine FATE

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Clairvoyance on the Canadian Frontier

Exactly 73 years ago, on June 11, 1945, two Indian trappers drowned in the headwaters of the Wapiti River in the British Columbian Rockies somewhere between Prince George, BC, and Grande Prairie, Alberta. These men, named Archie Belcourt and Josie LeTan, hailed from the tiny community of Rio Grande, located about 95 kilometres to the northeast. Tasked with guiding a survey party, they attempted to cross the Wapiti on horseback and were swept from their mounts by the spring current. Although the survey party searched for their remains, no trace of their bodies could be found.

The Dream

About a month later, a Beaver Dene Indian widow from the Horse Lake First Nation Reserve, located nearly 150 miles away from the site of the drowning, had a strange dream. She dreamt that she was in a canoe on a river in the middle of the wilderness. The man paddling the canoe was a guide whom her late husband had known in life. And in the bow of the canoe, guiding the paddler, was the ghost of her husband himself, who had drowned in the Wapiti many years earlier, in a similar manner to Belcourt and LeTan.

After a day on the river and a night under the stars, her husband’s spirit led her to a particular section of the riverbank. There, close to shore and out of the water, sprawled a human corpse. Her husband then took her to the opposite shore, where another body was entangled in a pile of driftwood.

The Search

Josie LeTan’s widow heard of this dream and asked the woman who experienced it to help her search for her husband’s body, which she believed the woman had been led to. Although the woman had never been to the Wapiti, she agreed to help. She insisted, however, that the paddler from her dream row the boat.

On the woman’s advice, the party started their search at the site of the drowning and paddled downriver. After a day on the water, they made camp on the riverbank in accordance with the Indian woman’s instructions. They continued down the river the next morning and paddled for most of the day. At around dusk, the Indian woman suddenly exclaimed: “This is the place I saw in my dream.”

The party headed over to the shore, where they found a skeleton. Although the wolves had been there first, the party was able to identify the body as Belcourt’s from a large metal belt buckle they found nearby. Some distance downstream, on the opposite side of the river, they found the half-submerged body of Jose LeTan wedged between two logs.

The remains of the two men were transferred to Rio Grande. Funeral services were held in the Rio Grande Roman Catholic Church on August 9th, and the bodies of Archie Belcourt and Josie LeTan were interred in the Rio Grande Cemetery, where they remain to this day.

 

Clairvoyance on the Canadian Frontier

The Problem with Rationalism

Ever since the 18th Century Enlightenment, Western thinking has been dominated by rationalism- the idea that our perception of truth ought to be defined by reason and the scientific method as opposed to emotion or divine revelation. This way of thinking has benefited mankind enormously. Under the pressure of rationalism, despotic monarchies have given way to democratic republics characterized by freedom and equality under the law (in theory, at least!). Medieval medical techniques like bloodletting and fecal ointments have been eclipsed by effective treatments like vaccines and antibiotics. Enlightenment thinking paved the way for technological advancements which have allowed us to work more efficiently, explore the world and beyond, and generally enjoy a better quality of life than our ancestors could even dream of.

For all the tremendous good it has done us, rationalism is not without its shortcomings. The idea that we can come to a complete understanding of reality through reason alone hinges upon the assumption that we human beings are equipped with the tools necessary to perceive and comprehend everything that is real. But just as an insect lacks the equipment to comprehend things like music, math, and spoken language, perhaps we humans lack the capacity to comprehend all reality via the narrow prisms of reason and our five senses through which we view the world. In other words, there are probably some facets of reality which we may never be able to fully understand or explain through reason alone.

 

Second Sight

One mystery which defies rational explanation is a phenomenon called ‘Second Sight’. Second Sight is a supposed extrasensory perception, or ‘sixth sense’. People endowed with Second Sight are said to have the ability to receive information, usually through dreams or visions, of distant or future events. They have no control over these visions, which come upon them unexpectedly. More often than not, these visions are distressing, as the information they contain frequently involves the death of someone known to the seer.

It has been suggested that there is a higher prevalence of Second Sight among members of certain ethnic groups. This ‘gift’ is most often associated with Gaels of the Scottish Highlands, who call it “Da-Shealladh,” or “Two Sights”. It is also known throughout the rest of Scotland, as well as in Ireland, Wales, Cornwall- regions of the British Isles with high populations of ethnic Celts.

According to Celtic-American writer Barry R. McCain, “The Second Sight is thought to be hereditary and it ‘runs’ in some families. As is often the case in genetics, the Second Sight may skip one or two generations, and then return, like some regressive trait for hair colour or shape of ears. The phenomenon is much too authenticated to pretend it does not exist.”

 

Clairvoyance in Northern Canada

Another ethnic group which may be similarly blessed with this gift of prophecy are the Dene of Northern Canada.

United by ancient blood ties and a common language family, the Dene, also known as ‘Athabascans’ or ‘Athapaskans’, are a First Nations ethnic group comprised of roughly 21 different tribes. Historically and currently, most Dene live in Northern Canada and Alaska, from the Arctic Circle to the boreal forests of the Western Provinces. Archaeologists believe that these people’s ancestors crossed from Siberia to Alaska via an ancient land bridge 10-12 thousand years ago, a millennium after the proto-Indians (the ancestors of most other Amerindians), yet several thousand years before the Thule people (the ancestors of the modern-day Inuit).

To the best of this author’s knowledge, few parapsychologists (as students of extrasensory phenomena are known) have explored a potential connection between Second Sight and the Dene people. Judging from a handful of stories from Canada’s Northern frontier, however, perhaps they ought to.

Poole Field’s Story

One of the first northerners to write about Second Sight among the Dene was a Canadian frontiersman named Poole Field. Poole Field began his career in the Canadian North as an officer of the North West Mounted Police- the precursor to Canada’s famous RCMP. He cut his teeth in the Klondike Gold Rush, serving under the famous Mountie Sam Steele. Following his honourable discharge from the Force in 1900, Field travelled extensively with the Mountain Indians- a Dene tribe from the Mackenzie Mountains in western Northwest Territories. His travels often took him through the notorious Nahanni Valley, an area in which he had some of his most exciting experiences. Eventually, Field established a trading post at the confluence of the Pelly and Ross Rivers, in Southeastern Yukon, from which he sold goods to the local Dene in exchange for furs.

Poole Field wrote about his adventures with the Dene in letters to his friend John “Jack” Moran, a former government inspector of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. In one of his letters, Field remarked that Dene medicine men were said to have “the power of a kind of second sight”. Sometimes, they received prophetic visions in their dreams, which all Dene took very seriously. On other occasions, Dene shamans sang themselves into a sort of trance. When they recovered from this dream-like state, they were able to foretell the future.

The Little Doctor

One incident which Poole Field recounted in his letters involved a reclusive Kaska Dene shaman from eastern Yukon, whom everyone called the Little Doctor. “He had about the biggest reputation as a doctor amongst the Indians,” wrote Field, “but would never come down to the store, always stayed out in the bush and would send his sons in with the furs.” In the spring of 1908, Field finally persuaded the esteemed medicine man to visit him at his trading post at Ross River. It would be Little Doctor’s first real taste of the white man’s world.

The Late Shipment

Several days before Little Doctor’s arrival, another band of Dene Indians paid a visit to Field’s store. These natives had come to trade their season’s take of furs for tea, ammunition, and other goods. Unfortunately, Field was fresh out of stock. Several weeks earlier, his partner had taken their steamboat down the Pelly and further down the Yukon River to Dawson City in order to purchase new supplies. He had failed to return on schedule, and Field had no idea what had befallen him. The Indians decided to pitch their teepees beside the post and wait for the shipment to arrive.

When Little Doctor finally arrived at Field’s trading post, one of Field’s native clients suggested that they ask the medicine man to see what had become of Field’s partner. “Well,” wrote Field, “I didn’t have much faith but it could do no harm so I took some tobacco as a small present and went to his camp and told him I was worried about my partner and to see what he could do about it.” Little Doctor said that he would do his best, but was unsure whether or not his medicine would work in this unfamiliar territory.

The Prediction

The following morning, Field paid a visit to Little Doctor’s teepee to see how he had made out. The medicine man claimed matter-of-factly that Field’s partner’s boat was a long way away, but that a band of strange Indians was also approaching the store from another direction and would arrive shortly after the boat did.

When Field inquired as to how the medicine man knew this, Little Doctor explained that, in a dream the previous night, he had been hunting on the side of a mountain not far from Field’s store. He spied a herd of mountain sheep and approached them cautiously, careful to not let them catch his scent on the wind. Despite his efforts, the sheep all stuck up their heads as if they were scared of something and looked down the Pelly River. Frightened of what they saw, they ran further up the mountain before stopping again and looking upriver. Frightened of this second menace, they ran further up the mountain and out of sight.

When Little Doctor looked downriver to see what had scared the sheep in the first place, he saw nothing. “Of course,” the Indian told Field, “you know that a sheep’s eyes are much better than ours.” Little Doctor maintained that the sheep had probably seen Field’s partner approaching, as that is who he had endeavoured to dream about before he went to sleep.

The menace that the sheep saw upriver, Little Doctor said, was likely a band of approaching Indians. They were a little farther off, as the sheep had to climb a little higher up the mountain before they saw them.

The Father of All Dreams

When neither Field’s partner nor the strange Indians arrived by late June, Field sought out Little Doctor once again and asked him to try to assess the situation for the sake of his Indian guests, who were getting anxious. The medicine man agreed.

Early the following morning, Field awoke to discover that the entire Indian camp was up and waiting for him. Little Doctor, it turned out, had awakened that morning from what Field described as “the father of all dreams”.

In his dream, Little Doctor went down the Pelly River in search of Field’s partner’s steamboat and found it “tied up for the night at the mouth of a large creek entering the Pelly from the north.” The medicine man boarded the steamboat and saw that everyone was asleep. The boat was piled to the roof with a very heavy load of freight.

In order to be able to describe the location upon waking, Little Doctor inspected his surroundings. He saw that an old abandoned log cabin rotted beside the creek not far from the steamboat. He went up the creek and followed it all the way to its headwaters, which proved to be two large lakes abundant in fish.

Little Doctor returned to the Pelly and travelled back upriver. Along the way, he found a man loaded down with freshly-dressed moose meat who was heading in the direction of Field’s store. Further up the river, after passing Field’s trading post, he saw a band of strange Indians with six huge moose-skin boats, who were also bound for Ross River.

The Steamer

Word of Little Doctor’s prediction soon spread to the other side of the Pelly, where Poole Field’s rival operated his own trading post. Soon, Field’s competitor and a handful of prospectors made a visit to Field’s post, where they “kidded the Indians about their medicine man” and placed bets that Field’s partner would not arrive for at least several days.

That morning, at around 11 o’clock, a man arrived at the trading post from downriver carrying a pack of moose meat. The Indians were certain that this was the man from Little Doctor’s dream. The man told the delighted natives that he had passed a steamer downriver, and that it was also headed in the direction of the trading post.

Sure enough, a steamer arrived at Ross River later that day. As it turned out, the boat belonged to Field’s competitor. “It was the wrong boat…” wrote Field. “Lots of gloom on our side…Too bad, of course, the old doctor had never seen a steamboat before, and how as he to know the difference? In any case, he had come pretty close to being right.”

Vindication

Field had bet $20 on Little Doctor’s prediction coming true, and would now have to pay his rival, who had bet against it. As he watched his competitors unload their cargo, lamenting his loss, the old medicine man approached him and told him he was sure this steamboat was not the one he had seen in his dream. “For one thing,” the Indian said, “the boat I was on was much lower in the water and the stove pipe was all black. This one is yellow with a black top. Then there is more white men on this boat and no Indians. [On] the other boat there is two Indians as well as white men.”

With fresh wind in his sails, Field asked his Dene clients if some of them might head downriver to see if they could find his partner’s steamer. The creek that Little Doctor described in his dream, at the mouth of which the steamer had been anchored, could only be Orkey Creek, which flowed into the Pelly about 20 miles downriver. Immediately, twelve Dene hunters piled into a moose-skin canoe and paddled down the Pelly.

Neither the hunters nor the steamer returned that day, and Field and his Indian guests retired for the night in poor spirits. Suddenly, at around 2:00 A.M., there was a knock on Field’s cabin door. Field unbolted the door and opened it. To his pleasant surprise, he found himself face to face with his partner. “He had walked up overland,” Field explained, “and everything was exactly as the old doctor had said… That boat landed at eleven that morning and [Indians from the Liard River] arrived that evening with six moose-skin boats, much to the disgust of the other parties.”

 

The Moccasin Telegraph

Another sourdough to write about native clairvoyance in Northern Canada was a woman named Jean W. Godsell. Jean was the wife of Philip H. Godsell, a Hudson’s Bay Company inspector-turned-fur trader who wrote many excellent books and articles on northern Canadian history. In the September 1954 issue of the magazine FATE, Jean Godsell wrote an article entitled “The Moccasin Telegraph”. This piece detailed a strange event which Jean witnessed in the winter of 1922, at Fort Fitzgerald in Northeast Alberta.

Earlier that year, in the fall of 1921, Jean and her husband watched a Chipewyan Dene band disappear into the wilderness for another season of trapping. Jean wrote:

“I felt a deep compassion for the daughters of the Chief, Marie and Therese Cheesie, as they staggered and slipped down the muddy bank to their canoe. They were toting bundles and bales heavier than their own slim bodies. Motherless tots, of six and seven years respectively, they were being taken into the wilderness to help their father with the daily chores of his life as a hunter and trapper.”

Jean expressed her sympathy for the little girls to her husband. “It’s tough,” the sourdough replied, “but it’s part of their life!”

John James Daniels’ Prediction

One morning that winter, when Jean was thawing out a loaf of bread over her cast-iron stove, a Dene interpreter named John James Daniels burst into her cabin. “Injuns,” he exclaimed, “dey come today!”

Jean was puzzled, as no one had visited the fort for weeks. “How do you know, John?” she asked.

“Me know,” the interpreter said cryptically. “Dey have plenty bad luck, too. Dem come before de sun reach here.” With these last words, he pointed his finger straight into the sky.

The Visitors

Sure enough, shortly before noon, an RCMP constable named Bob Baker dropped by and asked Jean if she would like to accompany him on a hike to the Slave River. “Some Indians are coming from the direction of Dog River,” he informed her. “Let’s see who they are.”

Mystified, Jean slipped on her parka and snowshoes and accompanied the Mountie to the riverbank, where a band of local Chipewyan women were congregated. There, in the distance, she saw the serpentine figure of a dog team heading towards them, mushing over the frozen river ice.

Jean peered more closely at the newcomers and noticed that something was amiss. The dog team had no driver. Suddenly, to her horror, Jean made out two tiny fur-clad figures struggling through the snow at opposite ends of the train. One of them stumbled along behind the sled, while the other trudged ahead on snowshoes, breaking a trail for the dogs. They were Marie and Therese Cheesie, the little daughters of the Chipewyan Chief, and the load strapped to the sled was their father’s frozen corpse.

Howling with grief, the local native women helped the little girls to their teepees and ministered to their blackened, frostbitten faces. Astounded, Jean Godsell looked over at John James Daniels, who had predicted the Indians’ arrival.

“Cheesie,” the interpreter told her in a hushed voice, “him die ‘way out in de bush eight sleeps to the eastward. Dem kids, dey tie ‘im on de sled an’ trek 150 miles through de woods to bring ‘im to de fort so de mission people can bury ‘im proper… I told you, Indians- dem come today!”

“But how did you know?” asked Jean.

“Last night I had a dream,” the interpreter replied, shrugging his shoulders. “Saw everything, just as now.”

 

The Incident at Fort Churchill

Later on in “The Moccasin Telegraph”, Jean Godsell described another incident of native clairvoyance in the Canadian North. “Some years ago at Fort Churchill, in Northern Manitoba,” she wrote, “another Indian’s prophetic dream came true.”

Much like Poole Field in his story about Little Doctor’s prophecy, the factor of Fort Churchill- a man named Ashton Alston- was waiting for a long-overdue shipment of trade goods. These supplies, on which the fort’s employees and their Indian clients very much depended, came once a year from the Hudson Bay Company’s storehouses in England. In order to keep his Indian clients from going hungry in the interim, Alston issued them free gunpowder and bullets with which they could hunt caribou on the coast.

One day while waiting for ship from England, Alston received an unexpected visitor: an old Indian medicine man named Shonkelli. Dressed in fringed leggings and a blanket capote, the leather-faced shaman wandered into the trade room, squatted on the floor, and lit up his pipe.

No sooner had the old Indian begun to smoke than Inspector Tremayne of the Hudson’s Bay Company, another of Alston’s visitors, stormed through the trade room door. The delayed shipment was making life miserable for the Inspector, who had come to Fort Churchill to supervise the transfer of supplies. He said as much to Ashton Alston as he strode anxiously about the room.

Shonkelli’s Predicition

When Tremayne wondered aloud what had become of “that confounded ship,” Alson suggested that they ask the old medicine man. Much to the disgust of Mr. Tremayne, who did not believe in the possibility of clairvoyance, the factor asked Shonkelli for his assistance and offered him a few plugs of tobacco as payment. “But the old Indian was not to be tempted lightly,” Jean Godsell wrote. “Not till his ‘fee’ had assumed considerable proportions did he agree to commune with the spirits and find out what had become of the missing ship. Picking up the tobacco, he slipped silently from the store and headed for his caribou-skin wigwam, where he went into a trance. At sundown, he returned.”

Shonkelli told the Company men that he had sent his spirit body out over the water. The ship, he declared, was safe, and would arrive the following day. It was delayed because her crew had decided to rescue a party whose own ship had foundered in the ice-choked waters of Hudson Straits. After rescuing these men, the Company men suffered a tragedy of their own: one of their members, who wore clothes like a woman, died and was buried at sea.

The Ship

The following day, the Hudson’s Bay Company ship indeed arrived at Fort Churchill, just as the old Indian had predicted. Alston and Tremayne boarded the vessel and learned the cause of the day from its Captain Mack.

While heading through Hudson Straits, the ship’s crew spotted a handful of men marooned on an ice-floe. They rescued the unfortunates, but were trapped by heavy pack-ice in the process. When they finally managed to liberate themselves from their icy prison, one of their members fell overboard and drowned. This man was a black-robed priest bound for the Mission at Chesterfield Inlet in what is now Nunavut.

Shonkelli’s prediction, it seemed, was fulfilled in detail.

 

Other Cases of Clairvoyance on the Canadian Frontier

Canadian frontier lore is riddled with similar anecdotes of First Nations clairvoyance, not all of them experienced by people of Dene ethnicity.

Jerry Potts

For example, Jerry Potts, a legendary Scots-Blackfoot frontiersman who guided the first Mounties across the Canadian plains, is said to have had a truly uncanny sense of direction. In the words of Mountie Sam Steele:

“He never talked with others when he was at work. He would ride on ahead by himself, keeping his mind fixed on the mysterious business of finding the way. He was never able to give any clear explanation of his method. Some mysterious power, perhaps a heritage from his Indian ancestors, was at work.”

Piapot

Another Indian of the Canadian prairies to experience episodes of clairvoyance was Piapot, a great Cree-Assiniboine chief.

In the fall of 1870, Paipot and a handful of Cree and Assiniboine chiefs assembled a massive war party and headed into what is now Southwestern Alberta, determined to strike a crippling blow to their enemies, the Blackfoot. One night, Piapot had a dream in which his fellow tribesmen were gored and trampled by a buffalo bull with iron horns. Certain that this was an omen portending defeat at the hands of the Blackfoot, Piapot decided to withdraw from the upcoming campaign and urged the other chiefs to do the same. As the Cree believed themselves to be far more numerically superior to the Blackfoot band they had targeted, however, most ignored Piapot’s dream and continued westward.

The following day, the Cree clashed with a Blackfoot war party that was many times larger than they had expected. The ensuing skirmish is known as the Battle of Belly River. The Blackfoot completely routed the Cree and slaughtered many of the retreating warriors, much like Piapot had predicted.

Ootek

In his book Never Cry Wolf– an account of his experience observing wolves in the Keewatin Barrens of what is now Nunavut- Canadian biologist and writer Farley Mowat described an Inuit shaman named Ootek, who paid the occasional visit to his camp. Mowat related one instance in which Ootek predicted the arrival of a caribou herd with astonishing accuracy. On another occasion, the medicine man predicted the arrival of a party of Inuit hunters, accurately estimating their number before they arrived. The medicine man informed Mowat that he received this information not in dreams, but rather from listening the wolves, whose language he had come to understand.

The Hayward Murder Case

And then there is the strange story of the Hayward murder case in Northern Alberta and the dream which led to its resolution… but that’s a story for another time.

 

Tell Us Your Stories

Do you know any other tales of clairvoyance in Canada and beyond? Let us know in the Comments section below!

 

Sources

  • “Indian Woman Has Revealing Dream”, in the December 1945 issue of the Alberta Folklore Quarterly, by the Edmonton Journal
  • Letter from Poole Field to John “Jack” Moran, July 14, 1939
  • “The Moccasin Telegraph”, in the September 1945 issue of the magazine FATE, by Jean W. Godsell, courtesy of Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra
  • Never Cry Wolf, by Farley Mowat, 1963

The Strange Death of Violet Goglin

The Strange Death of Violet Goglin

Last Christmas, the Season 4 premiere of the Canadian TV series Letterkenny aired on CraveTV. This hilarious sitcom revolves around the small fictional town of Letterkenny, situated in the heart of rural Ontario. Each episode details the exploits of the members of the town’s four main sub-cultures: the hicks, the hockey players, the skids, and the Christians. From the standoffish, tough-guy attitudes of the farm kids to the almost-incomprehensible vernacular of the junior hockey boys, Letterkenny is filled with side-splitting inside jokes which will resonate anyone familiar with small-town Canadian culture.

According to an article by CTV News, the fictional town around which the show revolves is loosely based on Listowel, Ontario, the hometown of Letterkenny’s creator and co-star Jared Keeso. Although the article does not mention it, it is likely that the name of the fictional town derives from the actual Letterkenny, Ontario, a ghost town in the quiet backwoods east of Algonquin Provincial Park.

Palmer Rapids

The real Letterkenny is lonely and secluded place. The nearest settlement of any significant size is Petawawa, Ontario- a town of 17,000 situated about an hours’ drive north, near the confluence of the Petawawa and Ottawa Rivers.

If you drive about 20 minutes southeast of Letterkenny, you’ll come to the tiny settlement of Palmer Rapids, Ontario. This sleepy farming and logging community lies on the shores of the mighty Madawaska River, a tributary of the Ottawa River.

In the fictional town of Letterkenny, there are a few hyper-zealous members of the Christian community whose strange sectarian schemes sometimes shape the plot of an episode. In Palmer Rapids, however, there is a much darker, nearly-forgotten real-life parallel to these fictional sub-plots which once shook the little community to its core.

The Incident

At around 4:00 in the morning on August 29, 1948, 23-year-old Viola Goglin woke up with a start. Whether she was roused by the sound of the door closing or the silence that suddenly beset her father’s farmhouse, she could not tell. Whatever the case, some mysterious force compelled her to get out of bed, slip out the front door, and wander into the darkness towards the river, where she knew, through some supernatural hunch, she would find her little sister.

Background

Viola’s family lived on a farm in the woods not too far from Palmer Rapids. In addition to farm work, their lives revolved around an alternative style of worship that their father had invented.

Viola’s father, 55-year-old Henry Goglin, was a prosperous farmer and a born-again Christian. Every Sunday, he used to take his eleven children to the Evangelical church in Palmer Rapids. In 1943, however, he suddenly decided to leave the church and keep his family at home on Sundays.

For five years, the Goglin family worshipped in their own way, adhering to a family religion based on Henry’s interpretation of the Bible. Every Sunday, they held worship services in their home, during which they repeated the words “Praise the Lord!” over and over. Sometimes during these services, Viola and her younger sister, Violet, received what their father called a “blessing”. During these incidents, the Goglin girls, seemingly possessed by some otherworldly force, feverishly “praised” for hours on end. Henry Goglin believed that his girls’ actions were directed by the Holy Spirit, similar to Christ’s apostles at the first Pentecost.

Violet’s ‘Blessing’

On the night of Thursday, August 26, 18-year-old Violet Goglin received another “blessing”. She entered a trance-like state and began praising over and over, encouraged all the while by her delighted father and siblings. She maintained this performance all throughout the Sabbath, hardly stopping to eat or sleep. For three days, the farmhouse resounded to her incessant cries of “Praise the Lord!”

On Sunday, August 29, at around 4:00 A.M., Violet suddenly left the farmhouse and headed for the Madawaska River. Her sister, Viola, followed close behind, prompted by some strange urge.

Viola reached the riverbank shortly after her sister. Through the gloom of the early morning, she saw Violet wading into the river, barefoot and in her nightgown. Over and over, the younger Goglin cried, “Faith is the Victory!”- quoting a passage from the Gospel of John.

The Drowning of Violet Goglin

Viola watched her younger sister from the shore as she walked further and deeper into the river, repeating the same scriptural incantation as she went. Viola knew full well that her younger sister was unable to swim. Convinced that Violet’s actions derived from the divine, however, she made no move to intervene, content to leave her sister’s fate in God’s hands. Soon, she found herself urging her sister onward, supplementing her cries of “Faith is the Victory!” with her own shouts of “Praise the Lord!”

When Violet was neck-deep in the water and showed no sign of slowing, Viola felt a twinge of panic. Beset by that protective sisterly instinct so common in elder siblings, she made a step towards an old rowboat which was tethered to a tree nearby. Some otherworldly force held her back, however, and Viola maintained her position at the river’s edge. Submitting to what she believed was God’s will, Viola watched as Violet’s head disappeared beneath the dark water.

There was no frantic thrashing, nor did any muffled cries issue from beneath the water’s surface. The only sounds that Viola could hear were the gentle gurgling of the Madawaska and the chirping of the morning birds. Viola stood by the water’s edge for some time, but her little sister did not resurface.

Aftermath

Viola then made her way from the riverbank to Palmer Rapids, where she informed two loggers of what had transpired. The men then drove the young woman back to her father’s farmhouse before informing local authorities of the situation.

At the farmhouse, Viola related the events surrounding Violet’s disappearance to her father. Instead of exhibiting fear, sorrow, rage, or any other emotion which might naturally be expected from a parent presented with such terrible news, Henry Goglin was overjoyed. He was certain that his daughter had been called into the water by the Holy Spirit, and was elated that she had received such a blessing.

Shortly after Viola relayed the tragic news of Viola’s disappearance to her family, Henry Goglin and his 28-year-old son, Bart, found Violet’s lifeless body floating on the Madawaska. They fished her corpse from the river and buried it on a lonely hillside near the family home.

The Trial

Due to the strange nature of Violet Goglin’s death, the Ottawa Attorney-General’s Department summoned a jury to determine whether or not foul play was involved. In the dilapidated town hall of Palmer Rapids, a panel of farmers and loggers listened with mouths agape as four members of the Goglin family related the last days of Violet’s life, and the details surrounding her drowning.

Henry Goglin’s Testamony

First, Henry Goglin took the stand. With a contented smile, he described the family service he held on the night of Violet’s passing, and told the jury of Violet’s “blessing”. Furthermore, being familiar with Holy Scripture, he drew a parallel between Violet Goglin’s fate and that of Philip the Evangelist, an early disciple of Christ. According to the Acts of the Apostles (the fifth book of the New Testament) Philip met a courtly Ethiopian eunuch on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. After converting the Ethiopian to Christianity, Philip waded into a roadside pond with him and baptized him before being borne away by the Holy Spirit. Henry Goglin believed that his daughter had met a similar fate.

Viola Goglin’s Testamony

After Henry Goglin’s testimony, a perfectly-composed Viola Goglin said a few words to the men of Palmer Rapids. Modestly clad in a long, old-fashioned cotton dress that fell down to her cotton-hosed ankles, she described her sister’s last moments. “God told me to go with her,” she said, pressing a well-thumbed Bible close to her chest. “I stood on the bank and kept praising while Violet walked into the river. She kept walking in and praising and repeating, ‘Fair is the Victory’ until she disappeared.”

After Viola’s speech, more members of the Goglin family testified at the trial. Ultimately, the bewildered jury decided that Violet Goglin had drowned to death in the Madawaksa River, and that no one was responsible for her death. It was clear to everyone in the hall that the girl’s family had no doubts in their mind that a supernatural force had impelled her to wade into the water.

Commentary

The story of Violet Goglin’s strange death is an obscure one. To the best of this author’s knowledge, it was covered in a handful of newspaper and magazine articles in the late 1940’s, and was thereafter forgotten.

One commentary on the incident, published in the July 1949 issue of the Canadian magazine Signs of the Times, remarked that God, in the Old Testament, strictly forbade fanaticism such as that exhibited by the Goglin family. The article quoted from Leviticus 18:21, a verse from the Hebrew Torah in which God commanded the Israelites to abstain from child sacrifice, a practice adopted by their Canaanite neighbours: “Thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God.” The article went on to explain that “human sacrifices have always been abhorrent to God. There is no instance in all God’s dealings with the human race when He required a human offering.”

The commentary ends with the chilling suggestion that, if a supernatural entity did indeed compel Violet Goglin to drown herself in the Madawaska River, it was not the Holy Spirit as the Goglin family believed, but more likely an agent of Satan.

Sources

  • “The Editorial” of the July 1949 issue of the magazine FATE, by Robert N. Webster (a.k.a. Raymond A. Palmer). Article courtesy of Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra.
  • “Fanaticism”, Signs of the Times, July 1949
  • “Driven By Holy Spirit Into River: Coroner’s Inquest Hears Strange Tale”; The Lethbridge Herald; Thursday, September 16, 1939
  • “Called by ‘Holy Spirit,’ Girl Wades To Her Death”; Winnipeg Free Press; Tuesday, September 7, 1948

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Thunderbird- A Canadian Legend

Thunderbird

A Canadian Legend

On the eastern shore of Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, at a place known as Brockton Point, stands a cluster of ten totem poles carved and painted by First Nations artists. One of these carvings- a striking replica of a Kwakwaka’wakw longhouse post- stands in conspicuous prominence. It is called the ‘Thunderbird House Post.’

The lower half of the Thunderbird House Post features a grizzly bear holding a human being. Its upper half- the half relevant to this article- is dominated by an aquiline figure with outstretched wings- a mysterious character from First Nations mythology known as the Thunderbird.

The Thunderbird of the Pacific Northwest

The Thunderbird is a common motif in the indigenous artwork of Canada’s West Coast. From Haida Gwaii to the Fraser Delta, the image of a great eagle with curved horns serves as testament to an ancient legend shared by the First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest.

For centuries, Bella Coola, Nootka, and Tlingit medicine men regaled their fellow tribesmen with tales of a winged monstrosity which once dominated the western skies. Around smoky longhouse fires, they spoke of a massive eagle endowed with the ability to create storms. Lightning shot from its eyes when it blinked, and thunder boomed when it flapped its wings.

These mythical creatures made their homes among the rocky crags of the Coast Mountains. Their nests were enormous structures composed of tree branches, supplemented by the occasional human bone. The Coast Salish said that, in ancient times, a Thunderbird lived atop the Black Tusk peak in the Garibaldi Range north of Squamish, British Columbia. Every once in a while, it left its perch to hunt killer whales, which it snatched from the ocean like a bald eagle snatches salmon from the river.

The Coastal tribes had many names for these giant birds. The Kwakwaka’wakw called them “Kwunusela“. To the Bella Coola, they were the “Alkuntam“. The Haida referred to them as “Ooolala“. Today, we know these monsters as “Thunderbirds”.

Thunderbird Traditions Across Canada

It might surprise some Canadians to learn that the legend of the Thunderbird is by no means a phenomenon unique to the Pacific Northwest. First Nations from all over the Great White North have similar legends of a giant bird responsible for the creation of thunderstorms.

The Thunderbird of the Great Lakes

The Ojibwa, or Chippewa, whose traditional homeland includes the forests of Southern Ontario and Quebec north of the Great Lakes, have their own legend of a giant, thunder-making eagle. In fact, the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, situated at the head of Lake Superior, gets is name from a translation of the Ojibwa words “Animike Wekwed“- literally “Thunder Bird Bay”.

Ojibwa legend has it that a Thunderbird once nested atop Mount McKay, a butte in the Nor’Wester Mountains located southwest of Thunder Bay.

The Thunderbird of the Maritimes

The Thunderbird also appears in the mythology of the natives of the Atlantic Northeast. The Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick called this creature the “Cullona”. The Montagnais and Naskapi Indians of Labrador, on the other hand, referred to it as “Met’co”.

The Thunderbird of the Arctic

The Inuit of Northern Canada have their own version of the Thunderbird legend. In his 1875 book Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, Danish geologist Dr. Hinrich Rink wrote that the Inuit spoke of “fabulous birds” called “Serdlernaks.” These birds hunted seals, and were perfectly capable of killing full-grown men if they so desired.

Similarly, zoologist and polar explorer Edward W. Nelson recorded an Inuit story describing “the last of the Thunderbirds.” This avian abomination supposedly lived along the lower Yukon River. There, it preyed upon caribou, and even snatched up the occasional Inuit hunter.

The Thunderbird of the Rocky Mountains

The Kootenai Indians of the Canadian Rockies, who traditionally made annual hunting trips east onto the prairies to hunt for buffalo, had their own Thunderbird legends. German-American anthropologist Franz Boas included some of these stories in his collection entitled Kutenai Tales.

The Blackfoot were another people of the Canadian prairies with Thunderbird stories. According to French archaeologist Claude Schaeffer, who spent time among the South Peigan Blackfoot of Montana, the Blackfoot called this creature “Omaxsapitau“. “Omaxsapitau” means “Big Pitau“, Pitau being the name the Blackfoot applied to the golden eagle.

White Bear’s Story

In 1951, Schaeffer interviewed a Blood Blackfoot named Harry Under Mouse, who told him an incredible story involving his own grandfather’s alleged abduction by a Thunderbird. Harry’s grandfather was a Cree medicine man named White Bear. Despite the animosity which existed at that time between the Blackfoot and the Cree, White Bear married a Blood Blackfoot woman and joined her band.

In those days, White Bear was a skilled eagle trapper. In order to catch an eagle, whose tail feathers played an important role in Blackfoot ceremonies, he first found himself shallow pit. Next, he baited the pit with a stuffed animal. Then he camouflaged it with grass and vegetation. Finally, he concealed himself within the pit and waited for an eagle to arrive. When an eagle sank its talons into the bait, White Bear grabbed its legs and thereby trapped it.

In the winter of 1850, 28-year-old White Bear’s band camped south of Fort Edmonton (present-day Edmonton), Alberta. Their pemmican stores were low, as hunting was poor that fall. To make matters worse, there were few buffalo in that part of the prairies that winter. Inevitably, the band went hungry.

Eventually, White Bear and a handful of Blackfoot hunters wandered west into the Rocky Mountains in search of game. Mysteriously, hunters disappeared from the party one by one. In spite of this, the hunters decided to split up so that they would have a better chance of finding food.

The Abduction

One day, while camped east of present-day Banff, Alberta, White Bear found a deer. He brought the animal down and set to butchering it. When he finished dressing the carcass, he packed the meat onto his back and headed west. Suddenly, he was surrounded by the shadow of an enormous bird. Before he knew what was happening, White Bear found himself rising into the air. With a thrill of horror, he realized that an Omaxsapitau had grabbed hold of the meat he had packed and was carrying him off to its lair.

After a terrifying journey over the mountains, White Bear landed in an enormous nest built atop a high cliff. Bones of various animals lay about him. Some of these were unmistakably human- likely the last remains of the missing hunters.

Also in the nest were two baby Omaxsapitau. Using his skills as an eagle hunter, White Bear seized the birds’ legs and jumped out of the nest with them. The baby birds flapped their wings furiously, slowing their descent, and White Bear landed on the ground unharmed. He plucked two arm-length feathers from the baby birds’ tails as souvenirs of his adventure and struck out east for the prairies.

Sightings

Sightings in Alberta

Other members of the Blackfoot Nation in addition to White Bear claimed to have seen the Thunderbird around the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies. A Blackfoot named Dog Takes a Gun claimed that his parents saw a Thunderbird near what is now Calgary, Alberta, in the 1860’s. In that same decade, Peigan Blackfoot warriors led by Heavy Runner (whose band was infamously massacred on the orders of U.S. Army Major Eugene Baker in 1870) saw a Thunderbird while on a raiding party against the Crow, which they took to be a bad omen. And according to Claude Schaeffer, the wing of “an extraordinary bird”, perhaps a Thunderbird, was “in the possession of a curio dealer in Calgary” as late as 1940. This wing was initially found by Cree Indians from Maskwacis, Alberta (formerly Hobbema), south of Edmonton, AB.

In July 1925, hikers reported seeing a massive bird evocative of the Thunderbird near the Tower of Babel, a mountain in the Canadian Rockies southeast of Lake Louise, Alberta. According to Canadian naturalist Dan McCowan in his book Animals of the Canadian Rockies (1936), the hikers “saw an eagle flying at considerable height. As it neared the Tower… it came much lower and they observed that the big brown bird carried an animal of considerable size in its talons.” The bird subsequently dropped the animal, which proved to be a mule deer fawn. A Parks Canada official weighted the fawn at nearly 15 pounds (6.8 kg).

Sightings in Quebec

In the fall of 1974, Daniel Caron, his sister Suzette, and Remi Bassette of Western Quebec saw a large bird near the village of Louvicourt, Quebec, east of Val-D’or. Daniel first saw the bird drinking at a pool of stagnant water. Later, the trio saw the bird flying off with a dead beaver in its clutches. The party described the bird as whitish gray, with a body measuring 4 feet (1.2 metres) in height. The wingspan of this aerial colossus was supposedly so great that the observers were afraid to publicly estimate its length for fear of ridicule.

Theories

Mark A. Hall’s Theory

Cryptozoologist Mark A. Hall described hundreds of alleged Thundebird sightings reported throughout the 20th Century, most of them in the United States, in his 2004 book Thunderbirds: America’s Living Legends of Giant Birds. Many of these sightings are eerily similar. Hall contended that, when considered as a whole, these sightings seem to indicate that a rare, large bird yet unknown to science once lived, and perhaps still lives, in the wilderness of North America. Drawing from witness descriptions, Hall suggested that the bird exhibits the following characteristics:

  • Its wingspan measures 15-25 feet (4.6-6 metres)
  • It has a height of 4-8 feet (1.2-2.4 metres)
  • The plumage of this bird is dark, usually being brown, gray, or black
  • Its head and neck are bare (i.e. devoid of feathers)
  • It kills and eats large game such as sheep, deer, caribou, moose, colts, dogs, and occasionally human beings
  • It has the outward appearance of a California condor, but displays predatory traits more consistent with those of a hawk
  • Its bill is curved, and its feet are capable of carrying heavy loads
  • It breeds on crags in simple nests of sticks and leaves
  • It is long-living and slow-breeding, typically laying 1-2 eggs at a time
  • It’s nocturnal
  • It is migratory; it travels south over mountainous terrain during the fall, and north over the same route during the spring

Interestingly, many supposed witnesses of the Thunderbird claimed that it made a loud noise when it flapped its wings. Hall suggested that this characteristic, coupled with the Thunderbird’s occasional appearance during spring thunderstorms, helped to spawn the legend that the Thunderbird was capable of conjuring storms.

Claude Schaeffer’s Theory

In his 1951 article Was the California condor known to the Blackfoot Indians?, Claude Schaeffer suggested that the  Omaxsapitau- the Blackfoot version of the Thunderbird- was based on encounters with the California condor. Although this rare bird is native to the West Coast of North America, Schaeffer put forth the hypothesis that its habitat once extended east to the Rocky Mountains.

Karl Shuker’s Theory

In his 1995 book In Search of Prehistoric Survivors,  British cryptozoologist Karl P.N. Shuker suggested that the thunderbird of native lore is “a nonexistent composite, deriving from Amerindian observations of three different species…” Specifically, these three species are the golden eagle, the California condor, and an “undiscovered species of teratorn”.

The Golden Eagle

Shuker argued that the thunderbird’s alleged ability to carry off large prey was “inspired by [that] of the golden eagle.”

The golden eagle is the largest bird of prey in North America. Although these raptors occasionally appear in Canada’s eastern provinces, they are more common in the west. Every fall, golden eagles from Alaska and Northern Canada migrate south, riding thermals down the Rocky Mountains to the Western United States.

Golden eagles are powerful birds. Their broad wings, strong feet, and muscular pectorals allow them to lift and carry relatively heavy loads. In his book, Shuker recounted several instances in which golden eagles reportedly carried off human children. In 1838, for example, a golden eagle allegedly swooped down on a group of children playing on a mountainside in the Swiss Alps. The raptor sank its talons into a 5-year-old girl named Marie Delex and bore her away. Two months later, a shepherd found Marie’s half-eaten corpse lying on a rock about a mile and  a half from where she was abducted.

Shuker also related an incident recounted by French biologist Felix Pouchet in his 1873 encyclopedia The Universe. This incident supposedly took place in a schoolyard in Mississippi in 1868. One Thursday afternoon, a golden eagle descended upon a group of young boys playing marbles not far from the schoolhouse. The bird snatched up 8-year-old Jemmie Kenney and climbed into the sky with him. For one reason or another, the raptor dropped Jemmie from a tremendous height. The boy did not survive the incident.

Shuker argued that incidents such as these served as the basis for the Thunderbird’s ability to abduct human beings. Native storytellers exaggerated the ‘Thunderbird’s’ weight-carrying capacity for dramatic effect. In time, this mythical bird graduated from snatching children to plucking killer whales from the ocean.

The California Condor

The thunderbird’s appearance, Shuker surmised, derived from native sightings of the California condor.

With a wingspan of up to 10 feet, the California condor is the largest land bird in North America. Although this buzzard, with its black feathers and bald head, bears great resemblance to the red-headed vulture of India, it is actually more closely related to the stork.

This carrion-eating colossus once dominated the skies of the Pacific Northwest, ranging from the West Coast of British Columbia to the beaches of Baja California. Throughout the 19th Century, settlers hunted the California condor to near extinction. Then, in the late 1980’s, conservationists reintroduced the bird to the Californian wilderness. Today, this endangered species boasts a population of around 500.

An Undiscovered Species of Teratorn

In his book, Shuker put forth the notion that the ‘thunderbird’s’ tremendous size was inspired by an “undiscovered species of teratorn”.

Teratorns are an extinct family of enormous birds believed to have gone extinct near the end of the last Ice Age. Related to New World vultures, these avian behemoths were some of the largest flying birds to ever live. One teratorn species, Argentavis magnificen, had an estimated wingspan of up to 6.07 metres (19.9 feet), making it larger than a Cessna CR-3 aircraft.

Shuker postulated that an ancestor of some teratorn species still survived in the Pacific Northwest long enough to be observed by the natives. This creature’s tremendous size, Shuker contended, helped to inspire the legend the of the Thunderbird. According to Shuker, these Pleistocene relicts, despite their size, did not have the ability to carry off enormous prey like the thunderbird of native lore. Like the California condor, they were anatomically related to storks. Therefore, Shuker maintained, they likely had relatively weak feet, and were incapable of carrying heavy prey.

Sources

  • Thunderbird: America’s Living Legends of Giant Birds (2004), Mark A. Hall
  • In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), Karl P.N. Shuker
  • Was the California Condor Known to the Blackfoot Indians? (1951), Claude Schaeffer
  • Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology (2002), George M. Eberhart
  • Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo (1875), Henry Rink

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Waheela- the Great White Wolf of Northern Canada

Waheela

The Great White Wolf of Northern Canada

On May 16, 2018, a Montanan rancher shot and killed a strange wolf-like creature on his property. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) officials:

The animal came within several hundred yards of the rancher’s livestock. He shot it and reported it as required by law. The animal was a young, non-lactating female and a canid, a member of the dog family, which includes dogs, foxes, coyotes and wolves…

“The animal originally was reported as a wolf, but several Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ wolf specialists looked at photos of the animal and collectively doubted it was a purebred wolf: the canine teeth were too short, the front paws to small and the claws on the front paw were too long…”

This animal was so strange-looking that FWP officials submitted some of its tissue for DNA analysis. The results of this test are forthcoming.

The Shunka Warak’in

For many cryptozoology enthusiasts (cryptozoology being the study of strange, unknown, or hidden ‘animals’), this strange Montanan canine evokes the Shunka-Warakin– a monster of Ioway Indian mythology.

The Ioway Indians are a Sioux people whose ancestral homelands include the Great Plains of Southern Wisconsin and Eastern Iowa. According to an old Ioway legend, a ferocious, hyena-like animal once roamed the American prairies. Due to its habit of killing and devouring dogs, the Ioway called this creature the “Shunka Warak-in“, which translates to “Carrying-Off-Dogs”.

The Legend

Every night, this creature snuck into Ioway camps. And every morning, a few more dogs were found missing. When the Ioway figured that these depredations had gone on long enough, they decided to ambush the animal. Armed with muskets and bows and arrows, they crouched in the darkness beside their teepees not far from where their dogs were tethered.

Suddenly, a strange, wolf-like creature slinked into camp from out of the darkness. The Ioway had never seen anything like it before. The baffled braves sprang from their hiding places and peppered the animal with arrows and musket balls. Incredibly, the missiles failed to bring the creature down. In fact, they only seemed to make it angry. With a bloodcurdling shriek, the animal lunged at its tormentors. The warriors drove it back with their spears and war clubs. After a tremendous struggle, the animal retreated back into the darkness. The Ioway decided to follow it.

The Ioway braves tracked the creature throughout the night and most of the following day. Eventually, they succeeded in cornering it. The creature put up a savage last stand and fought to the bitter end. When it finally fell under the Ioways’ guns, it cried just like a human being.

Once the creature was dead, the braves skinned its carcass, painted its hide, and placed it in a medicine bundle. The Ioway believed that whoever wore this medicine bundle in battle would be immune to enemy bullets and arrows, much like the indomitable monster whose skin it contained.

Lance Foster’s Theory

In 1991, a graduate student of Iowa State University named Lance Foster rediscovered the legend of the Shunka Warak’in. The legend reminded Foster of a mysterious stuffed canine which was once on display at a small museum in Henry Lake, Idaho. Foster knew that the museum had closed down long ago, and that the stuffed animal was missing. He suspected that the lost curio might be a Shunka Warak’in specimen- a relative of the vicious, dog-eating monster of Ioway lore.

Foster related his theory to Loren Coleman, a prominent American cryptozoologist. Using the information that Foster gave him, Coleman unearthed the fascinating backstory behind the stuffed animal at Henry Lake. He included this story in his 1999 book Cryptozoology A to Z.

The Tale of the Ringdocus

According to this story, a family by the name of Hutchins traveled by stagecoach to Montana’s Madison River Valley sometime in the 1880’s. There, the family’s patriarch, Israel Ammon Hutchins, established a ranch. No sooner had he and his family settled into their new routine, however, than their lives were turned upside down by the arrival of a strange and unwanted visitor. Israel’s grandson, zoologist Dr. Ross Hutchins, described the incident in his 1977 book Trails to Nature’s Mysteries: The Life of a Working Naturalist.

According to the Dr. Ross, Israel heard his dogs barking one winter morning and headed over to investigate. He discovered a dark, wolf-like beast chasing his wife’s geese. He shot at the animal with his rifle but missed. It ran down the river and disappeared into the brush.

Several days later, members of the Hutchins family spied the mysterious animal at dawn. They saw it several more times around the ranch. Their neighbours also saw the creature around their own ranch, located about fifteen miles down the river. Those who saw the animal described it as being nearly black, with high shoulders and a back that sloped downwards like a hyena. At night, the animal made haunting vocalizations which almost sounded like human screams.

One morning in late January, Israel Hutchins, alerted by the barking of his dogs, saw the creature and shot it dead. “Just what the animal was is still an open question,” wrote Dr. Ross Hutchins. After its death, the Hutchins family donated the creature’s body to a man named Sherwood. Sherwood stuffed the animal and kept it in his aforementioned museum at Henry Lake. He dubbed the beast “ringdocus“.

Conclusion

In November 2007, another grandson of Israel Hutchins named Jack Kirby rediscovered the stuffed ringdocus in the Idaho Museum of Natural History. Sure enough, the animal is a strange, wolf-like creature with dark coat, a narrow snout, and a back that slopes downwards like a hyena’s. Kirby repossessed the mount in his grandfather’s name before donating it to the Madison Valley History Museum in Montana, where it remains to this day. Kirby neglected to submit its hair for DNA analysis, preferring that the mystery of its identity live on. To date, no such DNA analysis has been conducted.

Sightings

Recent events suggest that the ringdocus might not be an isolated phenomenon. According to cryptozoologist Mark A. Hall, the 1990’s saw numerous reports of “mean-looking, near wolflike and hyena-like animals” in Alberta, Canada, as well as in the States of Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois.

Then, in 2005 and 2006, a mysterious wild animal invaded farmers’ properties all over Montana, killing a total of 120 sheep and seriously mauling many more. On November 2, 2006, the 106-pound culprit was shot in Garfield County, Montana, by state Wildlife Service agents. The creature’s fur had a strange hue that ranged from red to orange to yellow, and appeared to be something other than a gray wolf, the only animal it even remotely resembled. Despite postulations that the animal was a Shunka Warak’in, the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department identified it as a four-year-old male wolf with abnormally red fur.

Will this new mystery canine, shot last week on a Montanan ranch, similarly prove to be a wolf? Or will the DNA analysis confirm it as an entirely new species, or a relic of Montana’s prehistoric past?

Identity

In his aforementioned book, Loren Coleman theorized that the ringdocus (and, by extension, the Shunka Warak’in) might be a relict Borophagus– an ancient, bone-crushing, hyena-like dog known to have lived in North America during the Pleistocene Epoch. Alternatively, cryptozoologist Jerome Clark put forth the notion that the animal might be a surviving Hyaenodon montanus, a species of carnivorous mammal believed to have gone extinct during the Obliocene Epoch.

Many cryptozoologists have attempted to draw a connection between the ringdocus / Shunka Warak’in and an even more mysterious creature from Northern Canada- a monster known today as the “Waheela”.

The Waheela

The Waheela is said to hail from the watershed of the South Nahanni River in Canada’s Northwest Territories- a rugged National Park and a Mecca for extreme outdoor adventurers. The Nahanni Valley, as it is sometimes called, is a place of myth and mystery, home to legends of lost gold mines, mysterious decapitations, forgotten tribes, and prehistoric monsters. To learn more about these chilling tales, please check out our non-fiction book ‘Legends of the Nahanni Valley‘.

The word ‘Waheela’ is not a local Indian word, nor does it have subarctic origins. In fact, it was first introduced to the world by Ivan T. Sanderson, an eccentric zoologist and adventurer and a pioneer in the field of Fortean- the study of unexplained phenomena. In fact, Sanderson is considered by some to be one of the Founding Fathers of Cryptozoology.

In October 1974, a year after Sanderson’s death, one of Sanderson’s unpublished articles, entitled The Dire Wolf, appeared in the magazine Pursuit. This article described a giant white wolf which lived in the Nahanni Valley. Sanderson called this creature the ‘Waheela’ after a mysterious wolf-like monster said to haunt the forests of Northern Michigan.

The American Expeditionary Society

Sanderson’s article, coupled with some of his private correspondence, describe how he- and, by extension, much of the Western world- first came to learn of this mysterious white wolf of the North Country. Back in the mid 1960’s, Sanderson was approached by a young mechanic from Philadelphia named Frank Graves. Graves had read Sanderson’s book Abominable Snowman: Legend Come to Life, one of the first works to explore the Sasquatch-Yeti phenomenon, and decided to make a trip to the Nahanni Valley in order to investigate a hunch that Sasquatch-like creatures lived in the region. He approached Sanderson in order to ask the seasoned adventurer for advice which might aid him in his own expedition.

Sanderson hooked Graves up with four men who had also approached him for advice, and who also hoped to explore the Nahanni Valley. These men were members of the so-called ‘American Expeditionary Society’ (AES), an academic club comprised of about thirty American university students who hoped to resurrect the dying art of old-fashioned exploratory expeditions. That summer, Frank Graves and his four AES companions flew to Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, purchased a flat-bottomed scow with a motor, and made their way down the Liard River and up the South Nahanni.

The five companions established a base camp deep in the Nahanni Valley, at the base of an enormous waterfall called Virginia Falls. From there, Graves made several expeditions above the falls on foot. At all times, he was accompanied by an Indian guide.

Frank Graves’ Encounter

During one such excursion, Graves’ Indian companion brought along a dog. He hoped that his canine companion might be able to flush out any game they came across. The trio worked their way up a glen which led from the river. Eventually, they came to a small plateau covered with grass and brush. Sure enough, Graves’ native companion spotted some wild fowl in the timber below. With his dog by his side, he ambled down the slope towards them, hoping to bag something for dinner.

Frank Graves opted to stay up on the plateau in case any game appeared in his partner’s absence. He was armed with a double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun, and would be able to take any game that came his way.

Suddenly, there was a rustle in the bushes not far from where Graves was standing. Thinking that the hunter’s dog might be approaching, he did not raise his gun. He regretted his laxity when an enormous, snow-white animal ambled out of the brush. At first, Graves took this animal to be a polar bear. When he looked a little closer, however, he saw that it looked more like a gigantic dog. It stood up on long legs, more like a dog or a wolf. It had a wide, flat head and rather short ears. Graves panicked and fired both barrels of his shotgun at the creature. The animal hardly seemed to notice. It slowly turned away and wandered back into the forest. With shaking fingers, Graves slipped another shell into his weapon and fired at the creature’s rear. Amazingly, the animal maintained its leisurely pace as if nothing had happened.

The Great White Wolf of the North

Graves’ Indian companion quickly returned, thinking that Graves had killed some game. When the white man related his terrifying experience to his red companion, the native insisted that they return to their boat and leave the area at once. Only when they reached the safety of their base camp downriver did the native explain that the animal Graves encountered was not an extremely large wolf, but rather another animal entirely. These were solitary creatures, not pack animals like grey wolves. They were much larger than wolves, had splayed feet, and had thick, heavy tails. These beasts, the Indian said, were quite rare. Most of them lived further to the north. Some of them made annual trips into the Mackenzie Mountains, of which the Nahanni Valley is a part. And a few stayed in the Nahanni Valley all year round.

Another Description

Interestingly, Frank Graves and his Indian companion were not the only men to speak of this giant white wolf-like creature of the Northland.

In a letter to Ivan Sanderson, a man (whose signature this author was unable to decipher) claimed that in October 1970, while visiting the town of Moosenee in Northern Ontario, he heard tell of this creature from the lips of a Dene Indian who claimed to hail from Nahanni Country. The Dene were terrified of these monsters, the man’s Indian informant claimed. They were impossible to kill. The animal looked a little like a Husky/Alsatian crossbreed, but was many times larger. Its rear was more akin to that of a Saint Bernard. It had an 11-foot-long body and a 4-foot-long tail. “The rear portion of the body apparently slopes away in the manner of a bear,” the writer wrote. The head appears to be low slung and flattened and having a broad muzzle. Colours range from brown to white.

“Its habits are disgusting, if it exists,” the letter writer continued. “Part carrion eater, it can take a bear apart, but prefers to live on injured or young animals. Its delight is to snatch the young from the mother whilst she is in the process of giving birth. Also said to attack man on sight. Almost invincible, he has but one enemy.

“Now hang on to your hat!

“That enemy is a…”

[Check out our book to find out!]

More Descriptions

Other descriptions of the great white wolf of the North Country are eerily consistent with that of the letter writer’s Indian informant. For example, in The Dire Wolf, Ivan Sanderson mentioned that an old friend of his- a professional cameraman-turned-film director named Tex Zeigler- “made a few points about what he called the ‘great white wolf'” of Alaska back in the 1950’s, long before Frank Graves’ encounter. Before he became involved in the film industry, Zeigler worked as a prospector, then as a trader, and finally as a pilot in the Alaskan wilderness, earning himself the epithet the ‘Flying Trader.’ During his days in the Norht Country, he came across gigantic, solitary white wolves on a number of occasions.

Similarly, in a letter-to-the-editor published in Volume 2, No. 1, of the online Fortean magazine North American BioFortean Review (2000), a man who identified himself as Paul W., and who worked in the “outdoors industry”, described an enormous white wolf which his good friend encountered in the wilderness of Northern Ontario, not far from his hunting lodge. He estimated that this animal, which was feasting on a moose carcass at the time, weighed at least 200 pounds. It had a large, broad head, and its front legs were longer than its rear legs. It did not look much like a wolf, and was larger and more robust than even a big alpha male wolf should be. Its tracks were a whopping eight inches wide.

Theories

Some of those who have commented on the Waheela over the years have speculated that it is simply an unusually large wolf, perhaps a genetic freak shunned by its pack for its gigantism. Others suggest that the lone white ‘wolf’ of the Northland might actually be some sort of white bear, perhaps a “spirit” or Kermode bear, or a starving albino black bear.

Perhaps the most intriguing theory regarding the nature of the Waheela- first put forth by Ivan Sanderson in The Dire Wolf– contends that the great white northern wolf is an Amphicyon, an ancient, bone-crushing canid commonly known as a “bear dog”. These animals were neither dogs nor bears, but some of them were the size of the largest living bears, and some had doglike features. Today, it is believed that these creatures died out oat the end of the Miocene Epoch, the geological epoch preceding the Pliocene. Is it possible that relict populations of these creatures still exist in remote corners of the continent like the Nahanni Valley?

Of course, another theory contents that the Waheela is the same species as the Shunka Warak’in, the mysterious canine of Montana and the American Midwest. Despite the fact that the ringdocus specimen, at least, is much smaller than the great white wolf reported in the subarctic, and has a completely different physiology, both animals are mysterious canids that appear to be very difficult to kill, and to be endowed with the ability to crush bones. Perhaps the DNA analysis of the mysterious creature shot a week ago in Montana will clear up this mystery once and for all.

Want to learn more?

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about the Waheela, please check out our book Legends of the Nahanni Valley, available on Amazon and Kindle.